There are a huge amount of historical events, that while world changing, somehow pass us by. Whether that be because the politics of the situation are far too dense for us to wrap our heads around or the differences in geography and lifestyle keep that event beyond our grasp. Few can truly understand the innate fear wrought upon the world by the Cuban missile crisis, but many can comprehend the stomach-churning unease of the hiding under the desk advice of the latter days of the cold war.
One such event is the death of Stalin. While the passing of Russia’s greatest comrade would eventually rock the world’s stage to the point that its modern day players would still be dancing merry dances around each other’s camps of thinking, Stalin’s death was very much an internal, almost intimate affair at the start.
This is where The Death of Stalin excels. Now retooled as a much more comic cinematic farce, the source material is really rather more interested in the intricacies of the affair. The brief flashes of humour found here are in the sublime ridiculousness of the actions of its council of lead characters. Instead, the story zooms in on the smaller things, always careful to include the little people alongside the booming idiots brainwashed into fetishising the power so nearly in their grasp, while blind to the utter subservience still commanded by their fallen leader.
The text is dense, but clear, while never patronising the reader over what can be labyrinthine political ideals. Much should be made of how humanising it all is. Stalin, while obviously a bit player in his own story, still looms large over every action taken or at least pondered over by his overfed and overwatered council of fools. Said fools are drawn exquisitely, both textually and artistically. The really unnerving element of this book is that it somehow manages to get you to sympathise with the truly monstrous. Take, for example, Stalin’s son. A drunkard, taken to stealing fighter planes with his mates and laughing uproariously when one of them crashes into a crowd of people. He is vile, yes, but as the book points out - He is the son of Stalin, what else could he have ever become?
The artwork portrays the proletariat, not softer of face, but more open. It imbues them with an unending optimism in the face of impending doom, all the while proclaiming the glory of Stalin-as-god. There is the inevitable mother and son scene but not how you expect it play out or even why.
The Death of Stalin is essential reading for those wanting to open their eyes to the true darkness in the world, its real horrors and the blinkered incompetents that eventually, nihilistically while probably seal all our fates.
THE DEATH OF STALIN / WRITER: FABIEN NURY / ARTIST: THIERRY ROBIN / PUBLISHER: TITAN COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW