Monday, March 29, 2010

Review - I Killed Adolf Hitler

I Killed Adolf Hitler
by Jason
2008 Eisner Winner for Best U.S. Edition of International Material

When I talked about Jason's other two Eisner winning books I mentioned that they had inspired me to seek out the rest of his work. At this point I'm wishing for a nice hardbound collection of everything he's done. Every time I read something new by him I can't wait to read something else by him and these tiny booklets that Fantagraphics publishes just aren't enough for me. So it's safe to say that I loved I Killed Adolf Hitler.

There is a world where life is cheap and murder is legal. A hitman is growing weary of the day to day grind and his girlfriend may have tried to kill him. Then he receives a different contract: to use a time machine to travel back to the early days of World War 2 and kill Adolf Hitler. Hitler takes the assassin by surprise and steals his ride back to the future. The hitman waits the long years for him to arrive and shoots him but Hitler escapes again. So the now elderly hitman gets together with his girlfriend in order to track down the Nazi.

The strange thing in I Killed Adolf Hitler is that Hitler is completely unnecessary. This is a story about a man being given a long term perspective on a relationship dealing with someone for whom the wounds are still fresh. For him a lifetime has passed and he's no longer the same person, for her it's been days and the real story is how they have changed. Killing Hitler is just the plot device that lets them become separated by years and then keeps them together later.

This wouldn't have worked if Jason didn't create some compelling characters. These people (anthropomorphic animals?) are interesting. He's getting worn down by the act of killing over and over again and withdrawing from the world. She's a flighty, immature woman who demands all of his attention. Together that fight Hitler... er... change and reevaluate their lives.

If you're the kind of person to obsess over how time travel works or changing histories then this story might wind up annoying you. Jason has created just one rule for his time travel and it has nothing to do with changing time lines or things like that; it's a rule that exists for drama's sake. It didn't bother me since this is a story about a relationship rather than a story about time travel but I know some people who do get bothered by that kind of thing.

I would say that the only disappointment in I Killed Adolf Hitler is that it ended but that's not true. This is a tight short story that depends on the pacing. The story zips along quickly but not so fast that it feels hurried. Dragging it out with extra scenes or padding wouldn't have enhanced it. So while it is a very short book it's also the right size.

I did have one small problem with the artwork. I found that this time Jason's anthropomorphic animal characters looked too much alike. Early on there are some characters who are drawn almost identically to the protagonist which made the scene confusing. Beyond that the book is in his usual efficient style with simple layouts and rigid figures.

Those tiny caveats aside I can't recommend I Killed Adolf Hitler highly enough. It's the most touching story about a time travelling assassin getting back together with his girlfriend after being apart for sixty years from his perspective that you'll ever read.