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‘Black Dog: the Dreams of Paul Nash’ - Advance Hardcover Review

World War I was a pretty terrifying ordeal: the advent of modern warfare; the war to end all wars. Thousands died each day and that was just in Russia. From that war sprung painter Paul Nash, a British soldier so shaken by the war that it inspired some beautiful and powerfully surreal war imagery. He is quoted as saying, “I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on forever. Feeble, inarticulate will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth and may it burn their lousy souls.” Now, approaching WWI’s centenary, David McKean embraces this passion and brings us a graphic novel in honor of Nash’s work.

Told in chapters, writer/artist Dave McKean interconnects surreal dreams with supposed moments from Nash’s life. A black dog is our guide. Each chapter is done in a completely different style. It isn’t just an exploration of war, but a journey through a dreamscape of human fragility, exploring Nash’s psyche, with a reverence towards the gift of creation. It is part poem, part deconstruction of an art form and part biographical fever dream.

McKean is one of those comic book creators who has simply been around forever and has always brought a fresh voice and vision to whatever he works on. This may be one of his most important works to date. It’s
thoughtful, soul searching, beautiful, ugly, and profound. In my first time reading it, I found myself becoming anxious. I could feel the vulnerability of the artist bleeding through.

Also, I could easily frame any page in this graphic novel and put it on my wall.

It’s a stunning graphic novel with emotionally charged images and irreverent, incredibly personal themes.

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