Parallel by Mattias Lehmann Shows the Tragedy of Not Being True to Oneself
Parallel by Matthias Lehmann is a graphic novel that challenges readers to sympathize with a character who is anything but likable.
The story follows Karl, a former member of the German military, and his life as a closeted gay man. It might make some readers uncomfortable that, conscripted or not, Karl was a member of the army during World War II. This book is a reflection on his life and the decisions that have left him estranged from his daughter. Through a letter, we learn of the series of events that left Karl with broken marriages, incomplete relationships, and the price paid for being unwilling or unable to live your truth.
I found Karl to be a mostly unlikeable character. There are times when he seems selfish and delusional to the point of narcism. However, despite his numerous flaws, the author manages to humanize him, making readers feel for him deeply. The tragedy of his life seems Shakespearean at times. And the story shows just how much pain and suffering could be avoided if people were allowed to be themselves. The book aptly earns the title Parallel as the audience bounces between the past and the present. This story has so many layers that discussing them without giving away the plot is difficult. There is a complex morality in all the characters in this novel. However, that's what draws me into narratives like this one. It's easy to write good stories about good people, but it is much more challenging to get your audience to buy in when your protagonist is kind of a hapless jerk.
I wasn't blown away by the art, but I liked it well enough. The settings were the most enjoyable part for me. The facial expression was more impressionistic, but Lehmann really nails body language. There were some frames that really captured the immensity of the scene. However, it almost felt like those are where he focused his efforts, while artistically, he treated the rest of the frames like filler to get to the big moments. The storyboarding was impeccable, though. It moved the reader through the narrative in an almost movie-like manner (which is what good graphic novels do.) The last image is perfect.
Parallel would be an excellent read for anyone who likes a morally challenging storyline. It's great for readers who love character-driven storytelling and enjoy slower-paced, almost meandering narratives.
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