Posted by: gruvenreuven | May 15, 2011


“What If “ is the title of a comic book series published by Marvel Comics that explore “the road not traveled” by its various Marvel characters. Events in the “What If” series are considered separate from mainstream continuity in the Marvel Universe.

Joe Kubert’s book “Yossel” is essentially a hard hitting powerful “What if” original graphic novel published by DC comics. Joe “Yossel” Kubert in his graphic novel explores his life in a “What if the Kubert family didn’t reapply for immigration from Poland to the United States after they were turned down in 1926” style.

“Yossel” is a gripping story about a 15year old boy living in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. Yossel, like Kubert discovers cartoon drawing at an early age. It is his passion. It is his dream. It’s what keeps him going. As quoted from the book: “If I could not draw, I could not survive”

To mentally escape, Yossel sketches super heroes. His art is discovered by his Nazi guards, and provides entertainment for the guards as they watch him sketch for them. This earns Yossel favors in the way of scrapes of bread or a bit of strudel. Back in his cramped ghetto room, Yossel’s sketches turn from comic super heroes to the grim reality around him as he watches death and despair.

Separated from his family who is deported to Auschwitz, it doesn’t take Yossel long to join a resistance movement headed by the young Mordechai. Although the book does not call out Mordechai’s last name, one can infer that Kubert is chronicling the life of Mordechai “The Little Angel” Anielewicz, the leader of the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Combat Organization), during the Warsaw Uprising.

The book’s subtitle is Yossel, April 19, 1943… The date the Warsaw Uprising started, the second night of Passover. Yossel details the Warsaw uprising in Mr. Kubert’s compelling art style.

Kubert’s heartfelt story of the horrors of the Nazi era is hammered home with his raw artwork. The art in Yossel is phenomenal. Mr. Kubert does not ink his sketches, but rather leaves them as raw penciled sketches. This, combined with the greyish darkened paper really gives you the feeling that these are Yossel’s Warsaw ghetto sketches. The manner in which Mr. Kubert draws facial expressions, will leave the reader breathless.

One can’t help comparing Yossel with Maus (another original graphic novel detailing the Holocaust by Art Spiegelman). Where Maus is a non-fictional account of a survivor’s tale, the fictional account of Yossel isn’t any less gut wrenching. Maybe more so because of Mr. Kubert’s art. Yossel’s story is no different then countless number of Jews who were subjected to the horrors of the Holocaust. In Yossel, I saw my father in-law’s story, as did I find my Grandfather’s escape from Bergen Belsen.

Yossel is an emotional book, and one that (along with Maus) should be required reading.

Yossel is Joe Kubert at his finest.


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