Resize text+=

‘Parallel:’ Graphic Novel Review

At its core, Parallel is a story of Karl Kling’s attempt to live a life he thinks he wants and one that he truly desires. Told in parallel fashion, the story unfolds both as a younger Karl attempts a domestic life while struggling with his identity as a gay man in the post-World War II Germany, and from the point of view of an older, more introspective Karl in the 1980s. Through it all, Karl struggles with desiring acceptance and belonging, but never quite finding it because of his double life. Parallel is unflinchingly honest about the attitudes towards homosexuality in post-WWII Germany, where homosexuality was a punishable offense until 1994, and the toll it had on many queer individuals, the people they loved, and the ones who loved them back.

Matthias Lehmann’s 450+ page graphic novel is heavy, no doubt, both literally and figuratively speaking. Lehmann’s treatment of the subject matter is nuanced without being sappy, searing and yet sensitive, and unerringly honest in his depiction of how the sense of isolation and loneliness amplifies cycles of hurt and selfish behavior. Karl Kling is a sympathetic character in his best moments, but, at his worst, he’s selfish, manipulative, and petty. Lehmann allows Karl’s lived experiences to inform the reader instead of proselytizing for empathy and understanding. Furthermore, the supporting characters aren’t just mere backdrop characters but ones that Karl truly loves, hurts, and devastates along the way to his path for self-acceptance.

Lehmann’s artwork is gorgeous and extremely effective in conveying his vision for how this story must be told. Rendered entirely in stark black and whites, the usage of light and shadows is truly revelatory. Much of Karl’s story in the past is often rendered with heavy shadows and grays are much more prevalent, symbolizing the shroud of secrecy he always had to maintain, whereas the parts of his story where he’s older and no longer necessarily living in shame are much brighter. The character designs are well-thought out, allowing for easy identification, even in crowded panels. Furthermore, I really liked how panels showing vignettes are used to deepen the emotional intensity of devastating moments. The lettering style used is stark and unobtrusive, really allowing each panel to primarily tell the story visually as much as textually.

Overall, stories like this remind us of why #StoriesMatter. Perhaps, they remind us of why Pride events are necessary. Perhaps, they remind us that personal truths are important. And we should all be so lucky as to live them safely, without persecution*.

*With the caveat of not causing actual physical and/or emotional harm to others.

Creative Team: Matthias Lehmann (writer, illustrator)
Publisher: Oni Press
Click here to purchase.

Wenxian Tan, Fanbase Press Contributor



Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top