Marzi by Marzena Sowa

Posted November 4, 2011 by Meoskop in Book Reviews, Collected Works, Graphic / 0 Comments

Against a sea of grey military legs, a young child stands drawn in color, holding a stuffed bunny forlornly

This is one of my favorite graphic novels ever. I absolutely loved Marzi. With that said, let’s get on to the complaining part of this review. I really don’t understand what Vertigo is doing with this coloration. The military boots, the angry child, the bunny being ripped apart – this cover says Maus meets Poland. I expected the kid to spend time starving in a ditch, clubbed over the head by the military or something.

Instead Marzi is a sunny (mostly) coming of age story filled with the tiny moments that define a child’s life. I know a 7 year old that is reading it cover to cover and enjoying every second of it. Look at this alternate take. While the cover is still pretty combative, it’s more inviting. This says Read Me, I Might Be Interesting. Vertigo’s cover says Give To Unicef. Since Marzi never really spends any time with the military at all, I’m not sure what the point of having her surrounded by combat boots is. Yes, she grew up under communism, yes her father participated in the strikes, but this volume involves a lot of sunny days at the farm and laughs with her friends.Against a dark blue grey line of military style legs a child is drawn in bright colors, her yellow bunny held tightly across her body, hands gripping it's ears and one leg.

Savoia is a gifted graphic artist. Her ability to capture expression in spare lines is fantastic. Even in a black and white review version her art brings the story to a new level. While Sowa is telling her tale out of time (events don’t happen in order) the art is consistent, allowing a reader to easily bridge the gaps. I know Marzi is going to get compared to Persepolis or Fun Home. This is lazy marketing. Marzi is closer to Yotsuba than it is to either of those works. (It’s just like Fun Home, there is a lesbian involved! It’s just like Persepolis, it’s not in America!) Obviously, Marzi is not as lighthearted and absurdist as Yotsuba. I make the comparison to denigrate the other comparisons.

It rings true. Early on there is a moment where Marzi complains of shopping for toilet paper. If you buy it, people will know you use it. People will be aware you have a toilet in your home! I know plenty of children who share this same sense of embarrassment. This is the real strength of Marzi Рby taking the extraordinary events of her life (having to stand in line on toilet paper day) and mixing them into the universal experiences of many children she makes them relatable. This is a wonderful volume, and I hope more follow. Perhaps with happier covers.