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Wirick, Katherine K. – Nervenkrank #2


Nervenkrank #2

This has nothing to do with the comic (do my reviews ever start any other way?), but I do always love to see a #2 in a series after a bit of a time gap. Life gets in the way, shit happens, but Katherine has a story to tell here and it looks to be back on track with this issue. If you haven’t read the first issue you might be a little lost here, but that’s on you for skipping it, you weirdo. We get to see a sick ward and the level of care that these wounded soldiers get, which is dismal; they’re kept in rows of beds under stained sheets. He starts smuggling a little bit of food out while writing letters to his brother before the two of them are reunited. John’s brother Wieland has been dishonorably discharged and John is much improved from the last time they saw each other, but still skittish and unwilling to put himself out into the world. Wieland attends a small party, and I’m in danger of giving away the entire comic in a review, but he gets into a fascinating conversation. From there he convinces John to go with him to meet an artist he’s heard of but not seen, and anybody familiar with John’s life story would know the importance of this meeting. Which I assume we’ll see in the next issue, coming right up (probably)! Katherine is slowly and meticulously building up these people and their place in this world, and I’m constantly amazed by how much she can convey in a single wordless panel. The look on Wiel’s face when he’s reunited with his brother, the joy but also the concern about how or if he’s recovered, that’s what comics can be when done right. It’s well worth a look, so get both issues and get caught up! $5

Wirick, Katherine – Nervenkrank #1



Nervenkrank #1

I don’t think Katherine has a single wasted panel here, and she has an uncanny knack for capturing a mood or moment in one quick image. Oh, and you should probably read the preview for this series, even though I don’t see it listed at her website, and what the hell is that about… eh, maybe it’s already at her Tumblr page, and technically it’s not required reading. Still, it really helps set up this world. This is the story of John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld). During WWI he told his commanding officer that he was mentally ill and spent the next few weeks in a mental institution. As this was from 1915, the conditions were grim, to put it mildly. This issue starts off with a few brief images of the asylum before John’s relief. The looks on his face as he tries to say goodbye to a few of his friends (who are mostly too far gone to notice him), his halting, terrified manner of speaking, the way he flinches when a guard suddenly reaches out and straightens his hat, every one of those images tells volumes about the conditions he’s been enduring. From there he takes a slow walk back to where he’d been staying and is immediately confronted by the very nice wife of a guy who seems to be a bit of an asshole. She wants to feed him, her husband has nothing but contempt for John (who has a bit of a stutter), and John retreats up into his room. From there we see him slowly pick up the pieces of his old life and decide what he wants to keep. There’s not much dialogue here, but there’s no need for it, as the look on John’s face as he takes down the German flag says it all. Katherine has the confidence of somebody who has been doing this for years, and it’s well-deserved, as she gets damned near everything right. The only place where I could have used a bit of an explanation was an early scene where a guard drops off what appears to be a dead cat in John’s cell before taking him away, but it’s possible that was something from the preview that I’m just not remembering now. Either way this is pretty much flawless, and if your biggest complaint about a comic is that you’d rather not wait another year for the next issue, then you really don’t have a legitimate complaint at all. $5


Wirick, Katherine – Nervenkrank May 2012 Preview


Nervenkrank May 2012 Preview

Whew! I was all set with a general “what the hell is happening here” kind of review, then I noticed that this is a preview for a work that is projected to be much longer. Most preview comics are a bit more slapdash than this, and this looks fantastic, so you’ll have to forgive me for being momentarily fooled. Another thing that led to my confusion was the fact that the person depicted in this comic was only explained after the comic itself, and things open up in a vague “outside Berlin, 1915” fashion, leaving me with very little idea of what I was reading until the actual comic was done. It might have served better, especially for a preview comic, to make that an introduction, but maybe she wanted to leave a bit of the mystery intact. So, technical quibbles aside, how was the comic? Damned intriguing, with two really powerful images in just a few pages of comic. John Heartfield served in the German army in 1915 and told his commander that he was mentally ill. Yes, that’s what “Nervenkrank” means in German, and once again I have to admire the sheer clunky elegance of that language. This eight page preview details his last day in a mental institution, and the conditions in 1915 are a bit shy of modern standards. John eventually plays a role on the side of the angels against the Nazis in WWII, but that’s a long way down the line. Katherine mentions that “this story is not strictly nonfiction, but it is based on fact,” which is a ripe environment for a graphic novel. In terms of the artwork, it’s already clear that she has a perfect handle on the various facial expressions of a man who’s coming out of an institution and the conflicting emotions that come with that, which does give me high hopes for an eventual larger book. She says it’ll be continued in September 2012, although I have no idea if that means another preview book like this, a complete “issue” (of what length I have no idea), or if she actually has this most of the way done and that’s when she’s planning on releasing the graphic novel. I highly doubt that last one, but I am eager to see more of this story in whatever format she has planned. $3