Comic Review: Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes (IDW Publishing)

The broken bicycle on the front cover speaks volumes, its spattered shadow resting immobile on a dark red background. From IDW comes a nonfiction graphic novel that captures the times […]

The broken bicycle on the front cover speaks volumes, its spattered shadow resting immobile on a dark red background. From IDW comes a nonfiction graphic novel that captures the times in Beijing China in the late 1980s: Tiananmen 1989, Our Shattered Hopes.

Written by Lun Zhang and Adrien Gombeaud, it’s illustrated by Ameziane.

The authors preface the scene in China for us: It starts with Chairman Mao’s 1966 Cultural Revolution and its violent resettlement of citizens, and the emergence of Deng Xiaoping as leader in 1976. In the ’80s, there’s the rise of a corrupt pampered economic elite and the beginning of citizen protest in Tiananmen Square. Then, for the majority of the book, we see young Chinese students and intellectuals, now learning more about the West, wanting to see democratic rule.

This ‘cultural fever’, as it is now termed, culminated with a student-led protest in Tiananmen Square, a vast open-air plaza in the Chinese capital city of Beijing. A hunger strike and mass protest (sit-in and occupation) went on for weeks, gaining international attention. Negotiations between the protesters and government leaders ground to a halt. As troops suddenly descended on the Square, the peaceful student protest was violently quelled by the ruling communist party. Tanks and troops opened fire on the protesters, killing many and putting an end to the idea that democracy would flourish in China.

This book, like nonfiction books in general, presents a chronology of events, day by day during the crucial period of occupation of Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. It does a credible job in giving us a chart of names and faces to follow through these events; while there are many minor players in this intense human political drama, the focus is on a very few central characters. Ameziane’s drawings help us to digest the complex developments, her faces and figures are credible and well rendered.

In addition to the main story, the authors have included photographs of momentos of Tiananmen, a highly descriptive timeline of political change in China since 1989, and several pages of notes.

The overall reaction I have from reading this factual account of the Tiananmen events of 1989 is that I am better aware of the fight for freedom that occurred in Beijing. The sheer bravery of the students in pursueing the ideological dream of democracy for the people of China is touching. It’s a dense read, but one that is well undertaken in order to understand the struggles of a people to seek and influence their own future.

IDW, Tiananmen 1989 Our Shattered Hopes GN, $19.99 for 117 pages

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!!