Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler begins with terrified Jews, concentration camps, and cornered members of the French resistance; the story then turns to the man who set this tragedy in motion. Mizuki starts Hitler’s tale with his quest to become an artist in Vienna before moving into his military service in World War I and his rise to power with the Nazi party. The narrative then explores Hitler’s public and private actions before and during World War II, right up to the fall of Germany.
Hitler is a dense yet fascinating work. Mizuki’s narrative slowly unfolds from an impersonal perspective that tracks Hitler’s actions throughout the course of the war. Hitler’s political dealings are fascinating—in particular the early political struggles in Germany and the party’s infighting—but Mizuki develops the story further by including details from Hitler’s private life. For example, Mizuki examines Hitler’s relationship with his niece Geli and his reaction to her suicide. The inclusion of personal details does not necessarily make Hitler sympathetic—as he often behaves poorly in his personal life—but the combination of the personal and political results in a portrait that is both weighty and thought-provoking.
Mizuki portrays Hitler and his world in black-and-white images. Backgrounds are drawn realistically and in great detail, yet Hitler and other major historical figures are drawn in a cartoony style. Although famous individuals are easily recognizable, minor players are a little harder to distinguish and the cast page doesn’t always help to clarify identities. That being said, the caricatures take nothing away from the story’s significance: the characters’ faces are expressive and contribute to the storytelling, while the contrast in realistic and cartoon styles strengthens the impact of key parts of the story.
Because this follows World War II from the German perspective, there are frequent references to events and individuals that are not always addressed in world history classes. Fortunately, there is an excellent notes section of which I made frequent use; although my constant referral to the notes slowed me down, it did not take away from my enjoyment. However, readers will still need to be familiar with the events of World War II in order to fully appreciate the work.
This book was a great opportunity to learn more about the social climate of Germany and the political actions of Hitler and the Nazis. Readers will appreciate the perspective it provides on Hitler’s actions and the Nazi party’s inner movements. World War II buffs especially will gravitate toward Hitler, so this book will be essential for adult and university graphic novel collections.
Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler
by Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn & Quarterly, 2015