All Quiet on the Western Front
“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it.” It can be difficult to judge a graphic novel adaptation of a work as revered as All Quiet on the Western Front. Remarque’s original, based on his own experiences, is the tale of Paul Bäumer, a 19-year-old German soldier in the trenches of WWI. He embodies the Lost Generation, young men of learning and promise, completely unprepared for the horrors of a war that would change them forever… if they survived it.
Vansant’s graphic novel employs much of Remarque’s prose verbatim, so Bäumer’s disenchantment, the whittling of his soul as his friends fall one by one in what he increasingly comes to see as a pointless exercise, is elegantly conveyed through the dialogue bubbles and text blocks. The illustrations are perhaps less effective. The main characters all look far older than their ages, and their facial features are so similar as to occasionally render them indistinguishable from each other. The style is simplistic and, while this reviewer is far from an advocate for gratuitous gore, the horrors of war emerge as somewhat sanitized, especially considering how explicit many offerings in this medium can be. Overall, this would be a good introduction to the subject for teenagers who might balk at Remarque’s original, but adults will prefer an adaptation with more visual impact and greater depth of characterization.