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Our Highest Recommendation. By Sergio Toppi. Six new tales of folklore set in Eastern Europe and Siberia during various periods in history, plus 3 stories from World War I but from various viewpoints…and with some real fantasy/mythology that adds a fascinating twist. Presented in English for the first time; first published in Europe between 1974 and 2011. Ogoniok, Kas-Cej, Transsiberian, Saint-Acheul ’17, Like an Angry Bear, and Myetzko. Magnetic Press, 2021.

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Six new tales of folklore set in Eastern Europe and Siberia during various periods in history, plus 3 stories from World War I but from various viewpoints…and with some real fantasy/mythology that adds a fascinating twist. Presented in English for the first time; first published in Europe between 1974 and 2011. Ogoniok, Kas-Cej, Transsiberian, Saint-Acheul ’17, Like an Angry Bear, and Myetzko.

These stories are sometimes cautionary tales, where arrogant people get their comeuppance when they choose to ignore good advice. The first tale, Ogonio, is a perfect example. A cocky Russian bureaucrat has lost his friends in the snow-packed mountains, but he continues hunting for whatever he comes across. He walks into a village where they befriend him and warn him about a mythical character who considers this to be his territory, so don’t go hunting here. He ignores their advice and ends up, well, in a very unfortunate transformation.

In Myetzko, a warrior and his assistant have been partnered up one generation after another. His humble assistant has brought him luck and kept the warrior alive, but when all is lost, has to give up his life in exchange for using the dark forces to save his comrade. It happened centuries ago, and it’s about to happen again, no matter how much our present day World War 1 soldier doubts the truth of it.

Every story is stunningly drawn, with pen work to die for. Jason Shawn Alexander introduces this volume. He begins “Paul Klee said, “A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” Sergio Toppi’s line rarely seemed satisfied to simply walk; rather, it ran triathalons.”

That says it all. Toppi loves complex line work, always new and different. He loves period costumes, deeply etched faces, weaponry, and settings in war torn trenches, deep forests, empty plains… I really love these stories, they are so unusual and other-worldly, even when placed firmed in our our planet’s history. One of my favorite graphic novels to sit down and read, savoring each page of drawing and yet getting cool stories out of it, also. -Bud

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