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Graphic Novel Review: The Listener


The Listener by David Lester

Here is the synopsis from the book The Listener, the superb graphic novel from David Lester:

1933: In a small, snowy, sleepy German state, the last democratic election is about to take place before a failed artist named Hitler seizes power. The election is Hitler’s final chance to manipulate events that will lead to the death of millions. How did this happen?

NOW: A man falls to his death during a political act inspired by a work of art. The woman who created the art flees to Europe to escape her guilt over the death. A chance meeting results in the artist discovering the true story of the 1933 election. The past becomes pivotal as the artist decides the course of her future.

If that sounds like an ambitious story for a graphic novel, it is. It took me a while to come around to the idea that serious themes could be explored in graphic novels–I was in that crowd that just thought they were big comic books with more profanity and violence.

Then I read Maus, Watchmen, Black Hole, Fables, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and some of Chris Ware’s work. I reversed my position. Plenty of graphic novels are exactly what I always thought they were, but books like The Listener make it worthwhile to sift through all the others.

Listener tells a story that I can’t really do justice to in a brief review, but I’ll give you the broadest strokes and keep it spoiler-free.

This book is for you if you:

  • david-lester-the-listener

    Pages from The Listener

    Enjoy black and white art

  • Think Hitler was an abomination, but a great spin doctor
  • Think that elections don’t necessarily guarantee democracy (thanks Arundhati Roy)
  • Believe that art has the power to change the world, for better or worse
  • Are a student or fan of political history
  • Are a fan of David Lester and his other ventures

I’d like to expand on that last one for a moment. Lester is a truly interesting individual. If you’re on the fence about trying the book, I would suggest reading a bit about the man. Starting with the Inspired Agitators poster series will introduce you to the mind you’ll be engaging with.

I could say more about the story, but I’d prefer that you go in as blind as possible. And I wish I could say more about the art, but I’m beyond clumsy when I try to start describing what I’m seeing.

David, thanks for the copy.


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jean Smith July 25, 2011, 4:25 am

    Hi Josh,

    Here’s an interview David did last month at UMFM (University of Manitoba, Winnipeg).


    “A dense and fiercely intelligent work that asks important questions about art, history, and the responsibility of the individual, all in a lyrical and stirring tone.” — Publishers Weekly (New York)

  • Big Will July 25, 2011, 7:27 am

    Nice. I had not even heard of the author or the book. I am sure to snatch this up real quick.

    “Black Hole” is one of my favorites.

  • Casey (North and Clark) July 29, 2011, 2:27 pm

    I love picture books and might check this out. If you get a chance to Josh I would highly recommend the Scalped Series from Vertigo. Full real characters in a world that feels too authentic not to exist. Oh also scary scary drug dealers.