Review: Nanjing: The Burning City HC

Nanjing the Burning CityAfter the bombs fall, the Imperial Japanese Army seized the Chinese capital of Nanjing. Now screams echo off the rubble as two abandoned Chinese soldiers—trapped and desperately outnumbered inside the walled city—try to escape. What they’ll encounter will haunt them. But in the face of horror, they’ll learn that resistance and bravery cannot be destroyed.

The story of what happened in Nanjing is something I learned a lot about in college. For those that don’t know, the Japanese army seized the city and committed beyond describe atrocities. By some accounts there was a great rate of murder committed in the time they occupied the city than the Nazis committed during all of World War II. Add on top rape and torture, and the whole event can only be described as the stuff from horror films. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend reading the Rape of Nanjing.

Ethan Young portraying a story during this time isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s controversy that surrounds it, with each side making claims as to what really happened. Instead of attempting to go into hard details, Young focuses his story on two Chinese soldiers caught in the city and a bit of a focus on the safe zone that existed and mostly housed international individuals.

With that focus, the comic for me felt a little watered down and didn’t show enough of the crimes committed. It hints at some of the atrocities, but other than the rape, there’s not much detail on the rest. That may be good, in that seeing visual depictions of what happened may have actually been too disturbing to read. It also may have been difficult with such a narrow focus, and the horrendous acts being so pervasive.

As is, Young presents an interesting introduction to this real world even, and hopefully it spurs folks into wanting to learn more about what happened. The narrative is a familiar one, two soldiers having to protect some citizens at the risk of their own lives. It’s an entertaining read, and packs just enough emotional oomph to make it relateable.

Young’s art is solid, presenting a clean narrative, and allowing our minds to fill in the gaps for some of the horror that is presented.

Overall, Nanjing: The Burning City feels like a good book to start teens on in hopes they want to do further research about this event that’s often ignored in the West. The graphic novel itself is a fine and quick read that gives a little insight into what happened, and packages it into entertainment, like Saving Private Ryan. Here’s hoping it spurs some more discussion and research into what really happened.

Story: Ethan Young Art: Ethan Young
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review