Although comic books and the Rwandan genocide seem about as antithetical as bubblegum and gang rape, Belgian author J.P. Stassen combines the two to considerable effect in 'Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda'. Winner of the 2000 Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, it tells the story of Deogratias, a Hutu teenager, and his infatuation with Benina and Apollinaria, two Tutsi sisters. Set in late 1994, Deogratias's hold on reality slowly begins to erode as he suffers 'urwagwa' (banana beer) induced flashbacks of the genocide and his participation in it. Unafraid to expose the brutality of the violence and the complicity of France and the Catholic Church, Stassen paints an intricate picture of a genocide that refuses simple explanations. The very beauty of his artwork and the horror of its subject matter suggest the gap between our desire to represent the genocide and our inability to reconcile it. In the vein of Art Spiegelman's 'Maus', 'Deogratias' challenges the boundaries of its medium and the reader's expectations of what a comic can and should be. A moving and sensitive exploration of the world's insincere mantra of "never again," it might just change your perception of both comic books and the genocide. [Andrea Grant]
Deogratias' is published by First Second. Out Now. Cover Price Ã‚Â£7.99.