Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"You can have Austria. Sorry about that misunderstanding."
"Don't give it a second thought."
Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly one of the twentieth century's most fascinating, flawed characters. Countless experts have attempted to unravel the man, his rise to power and ultimate self-destruction, and here Shigeru Mizuki, one of comics finest documentarians of both historical geo-politics SHOWA: A HISTORY OF JAPAN 1926-1939, 1939-1944, 1944-1953, 1953-1989 and the up close and personal experience of war ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS, provides his own irreverent take on the demagogue who had it all, briefly, before his insatiable desire for immortality in the form of total global domination and a thousand year Reich caused it all to turn to dust before his very eyes.
Mizuki wisely steers away from trying to understand what made Hitler tick, instead providing a fascinating précis of some of the known facts thus allowing the rich material to speak for itself, along with an occasional ridiculous punchline provided knowingly to camera by the man himself, such as when having a kiss and make up session with Il Duce Benito Mussolini over their little misunderstanding as to the future ownership of Austria, as in the opening pull quote. Surely a comedic turn only matched in odiousness by the late, not-so-great Bernard Manning!
Mizuki treats his subject, in the pre-political days at least, with a surprising degree of almost affection, playing up the buffoonery of the down and out failed artist in Vienna. Then Hitler's action-packed military career as a runner in World War 1, including capturing fifteen French soldiers single-handedly, winning him the Iron Cross, First Class, something almost never awarded to a lowly rank-and-file solider. Followed by his post-war infiltration of the tiny DAP political group, a mere six people, working as an intelligence agent for the German government, before deciding that a future role as a radical politician was the most logical career progression!
From there, the ascent to real influence over people and the transformation of the DAP into the National Socialists, the early political then military successes as Chancellor of Germany. Before the megalomania, given free rein at last, consumed him completely, causing the rapid implosion of both the Third Reich and Hitler's grip on sanity and ultimately power as the Allies were finally provoked into launching an armed response which soon bloomed into World War 2. Even then, the ever-escalating conflict only played to Hitler's sense of grandiose self-destiny, before it became finally clear to him, long after the rest of the German high command, that all was lost.
Inevitably, covering such a vast complex period, Mizuki can only cover the basics, but he does so, particularly where Hitler is involved with a real sense of mischief that has become his trademark. This is mixed in with illustrations partially or fully from photographic reference when narrating factual battlefield events or matters such as death camps which clearly brook no attempts at abrogation through comedy. As a whole though, skewering material like this with a subtle comedic thread serves to capture the imagination and retain the attention of the casual reader. It's not HIPSTER HITLER, clearly, but it's just as cleverly done.