Nick Cardy is one of the most respected artists in the comic business. His work on Teen Titans and the numerous cover designs he produced are some of the best around. He recently found several old sketchbooks from his time in the service during World War II and they have been printed along with his commentary and narration of the events they display. Nick Cardy: The Artist at War is World War II from the perspective of a young artist, a viewpoint we don’t often see in the thick of the action, and it lends a whole new perspective on these historical events.
As someone who also reviews video games, World War II is a tired and overused genre. You couldn’t throw a stick without hitting a shooter set during the second great war in the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube era of consoles. I find the subject fascinating, but by now I would be okay if I never had to experience it again. At least, that’s what I thought. I’ve come to realize that I could never see another military shooter or movie again and I would be fine with that. If you want to do a World War II piece, you have to do it in a different way than what we’ve had shoved down our throats time and time again.
Nick Cardy: The Artist at War is precisely that. It gives an often unseen view on the horrific scenes of wartime. While it was fascinating to see sketches of battles and destruction from a person who was there, sketching as he went along, it was even more so to see the quiet moments. Meal time, training, workshops, surgery, we only get to see these in fleeting moments in other mediums, but here we essentially relive Cardy’s life as he experienced every moment.
Great effort has been taken to assure that these aged sketches look just as they would if you were holding the books in your own hands. Every page is set against a black background to highlight the images. Unfortunately, the paper and print used makes the backgrounds a magnet for smudged fingerprints. It doesn’t affect the images themselves, but I’m a stickler for pristine books and the smudges bother me. I would be much more concerned about it if the actual content of the book wasn’t so fantastic.
I wasn’t sure what to expect out of Nick Cardy: The Artist at War. We, as a culture, are still fascinated by World War II, and this could have just been another entry into the long line of books around the topic. There was something about the sketches and watercolors and associated commentary that humanized the events and gave a new, fascinating view on them. Not only are the atrocities of war front and center, but the small, intimate moments as well. This isn’t a grand war adventure, it’s one man’s experiences from it in picture form and it was a fantastic read.