Comic Review: The Silence of Malka (IDW)

It’s not often you get to read a truly touching comic epic; The Silence of Malka, From IDW, is one of them. Winner of the Best Foreign Graphic Album at […]

It’s not often you get to read a truly touching comic epic; The Silence of Malka, From IDW, is one of them.

Winner of the Best Foreign Graphic Album at the Angoulème Festival in Belgium, this book is newly translated into English from the original French text. It is authored by Jorge Zetner and illustrated by Rubén Pellejero.

The basic story is this: Jews fleeing persecution in Russia at the end of the 1800’s make the voyage to Argentina. There, they work on farms. Life is tough. Pushed to the edge of their resources, one family, including little red-haired Malka, are visited by a prophet. The prophet, Elias, advises them to create a Golem; a sand creature, who will pose as a man, to help with the farming. So they do.

All is great for several years until a sudden change brings disaster to the family.

Can Malka keep her silence about what she knows?

The story is a lyrical, powerfully illustrated and coloured odyssey from a little village in Russia, to the dusty, hardscrabble fields of 1800’s Argentina. The Silence of Malka is filled with allegories, with little stories and symbols concealed within the main story. Subplots and subtext, interspersed with bright passages of bold colour, romance, tragedy and wonderfully fluid drawings.

It’s quite the journey, this story, taking years within the comic to go from beginning to conclusion. In addition to the main story, there is a three-page additional short tale included here. Also included is a full history of the Ashenazi Jews’ travels and tribulations as they looked for a land that would accept and sustain them. There are also lots of sketches, watercolour drawings, and figure studies that were made in preparation of the book.

The Silence of Malka is a strong addition to any graphic novel library. Cleverly written, and drawn in a style similar to that of Jordi Bernet, or Alex Toth, with a European sensibility that is hard to explain, perhaps, but easy to appreciate and savour.

IDW, EuroComics US, The Silence of Malka, $24.99 for 116 pages, Not rated, perhaps Teen

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!