Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Speigelman (Pantheon: $8.95)
Before mass literacy, satirical drawings were a common vehicle for social and political commentary: During the Reformation, the Pope was caricatured as the Antichrist and Martin Luther as Satan in disguise. As comic books have largely been restricted to mindless diversions in America, Art Speigelman's effort to infuse serious content into his drawings seems more daring than it really is.
In this first collection of his work from Raw comics, Speigelman attempts to depict his troubled relationship with his father, a concentration camp survivor, and show how the older man survived in Poland from the beginning of the Nazi persecution to his arrival at Auschwitz in 1944. (A second volume, devoted to his later experiences, has already been announced.)
Speigelman has accurately reproduced his father's narrative, down to the fractured grammar. ("It would take many books, my life, and no one wants anyway to hear such stories.") But he merely records the man's behavior, without explaining why he acts as he does. Speigelman illustrates his father's extreme parsimony--a common trait among Holocaust survivors--but fails to explore its origins in the utter deprivation of the ghetto.