A Letter to Jo

Top Shelf: IDW. Jan. 2020. 144p. ISBN 9781603094528. pap. $19.99. Rated: Teen+. HIST
Drawn from a letter penned by debut author Sieracki’s grandfather Leonard to his wife, the titular Josephine, this book presents a largely paint-by-numbers tour of the European theater of World War II. Training, traveling, bonding with fellow soldiers, and infantry combat are covered with a generalized expediency—assuming, more or less, that readers have seen a war movie before and know how this goes. Secondary characters get short shrift—Jo herself only exists to pine for her beau back home in Ohio, with barely a trace of her interior life or wartime experience, and a completely fabricated Puerto Rican corpsmate serves to spark an anachronistic (and virtue-signaling) exchange on American immigration policy that pulls readers out of the intended setting. Sieracki’s writing is most engaging at moments of personal struggle—loss, loneliness, and shell-shock feel thoughtfully lived-in, and Williams’s (Gothic Tales of Haunted Love) artwork flourishes during firefights. Yet the disconnect between the art and story is palpable, with the illustrated thrill of combat overwhelming more subtle aspects of the narrative.
VERDICT Leaning hard on cultural wartime tropes and cartoonish bouts of combat, this tale misses an opportunity to share a meaningful, specific story by painting in the broadest of strokes.

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