Page 45 Review by Stephen
Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month April 2023.
Set first in London and Oxford from 1934, then Berlin* as the Nazis' insidious grip on the non-Jewish population's imagination and conscience grows ever more overwhelming and effectively absolute, the unflinchingly sorry story of IRMINA boasts a Spirit of Place that's one of the most consistently penetrating in comics - thanks in no small part to a beautifully balanced, complementary palette of sand on rain (not rain on sand). It's very attractive, yet cold and thoroughly uncomfortable.
And then come the Swastika drapes down the public buildings' facades, incarnadine. It bleeds through onto the other pages in private households.
There's some brutal bystander script, at which point I refer you to the exceptional, illuminating, contextual afterword by Dr Alexander Korb.
Aaaaaanyway, based on a true story (aside from our appalling capitulation to phallic power and contempt), Irmina meets a lovely lad from Barbados called Howard Green (you may have heard of him!), studying in the '30s at Oxford University. Instinctively, she bristles and bites back at every society-sanctioned act of racism - and slowly we realise she's smitten - but how will she react when torn back to a Germany which is oh god.
Gripping. Awful. Insightful. And remember, I wrote 'sorry' not sad, though obviously it's both. I'm terrified of spoiling this for you.
The publisher writes:
"In the mid-1930s, Irmina, an ambitious young German, moves to London. At a cocktail party, she meets Howard Green, one of the first black students at Oxford, who, like Irmina, is working towards an independent existence. However, their relationship comes to an abrupt end when Irmina, constrained by the political situation in Hitler's Germany, is forced to return home.
As war approaches and her contact with Howard is broken, it becomes clear to Irmina that prosperity will only be possible through the betrayal of her ideals. Based on a true story, this moving and perceptive graphic novel perfectly conjures the oppressive atmosphere of wartime Germany, reflecting with compassion and intelligence on the complicity that results from the choice, conscious or otherwise, to look away."
Deftly done, there.
* Do flip the cover over!