Armenian Culture, Science and Education Development Foundation

Review: ‘Operation Nemesis’

Culture.AM Op_Nemesis

The earth was a very different place 100 years ago. Unfortunately, human hatred and intolerance showed its head back even that far. Long before Adolf Hitler attempted to eradicate Jewish people, a man namedTalaat Pasha attempted the same with the Armenians. His fate, however, was never in question – he was murdered in broad daylight by one of his victims, Soghomon Tehlirian. Now, a full century later, writer/publisher Josh Blaylockand artist Hoyt Silva tell that story in full with the original graphic novel Operation Nemesis.

As panelsonpages.com reports, the book unfolds as Tehlirian is on trial for the murder of Pasha and opens several years after the horror Tehlirian experienced trying to survive as he witnessed those around him being beaten, raped, shot, sold, and much worse. It’s evident that Blaylock had a hard time writing some of the scenes of atrocity. This is a far cry from many creators who seem to almost relish in seeing how awful they can get in the name of “pushing the envelope of the medium.” Make no mistake – there are scenes in Operation Nemesis that are disturbing and may turn your stomach. Showing the barbarousness of these events is a necessity here, though, to illustrate the suffering of the Armenian people. The reader can also feel that it’s not something Blaylock and Silva reveled in. The story and events are presented in clear but not gratuitous fashion.

How the story is told in the pages of Operation Nemesis is important to discuss as well. Time-jumping has become such a cliché in comic storytelling. It’s pretty common to see a key event in the future right off the top with the build to it coming later. It’s a worn-out trope, but this is a rare exception where it works. The device has a reason here – the story is framed by the murder trial and the flashbacks are told by Tehlirian as he testifies in court on his own behalf. This is a much better reason to use that device rather than a cheap way to hook the reader. Blaylock uses the opening and subsequent flashbacks with surgical precision, drawing sympathy for Tehlirian and his quest for justice and freedom. The payoff and the events that unfold afterward have so much more impact presented in this manner considering this is a factual account.

Hoyt Silva does a great job with the line work and layouts. Each event has clarity, but is presented in dramatic fashion to emphasize the emotional peaks and valleys. One particular scene told in teardrops is done brilliantly by Silva. Colorists Greg And Fake Petre also deserve mention for vastly improving on the mood in any given situation and adding so much to the art.

Events this monumental, for good or ill, deserve to be recounted as accurately and with as much empathy as possible. Blaylock, Silva, and the Petre brothers achieve that in spades with Operation Nemesis. Given time, this is a book that could stand on par with Art Spiegelman‘s Maus as an example of how the comics medium can both teach and uplift. Operation Nemesis earns a full 5 out of 5 New York Times Headlines.

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