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Title: MWD: Hell Is Coming Home
Author(s): Johnson, Egleson, Milevski, and Stevens
Publisher: Candlewick Press (2017)
Age Rating: 17+
Looks to be a sort of unofficial Candlewick Press week as we delve further into their 2017 titles with MWD: Hell Is Coming Home, a story about a soldier (Liz Mastrangelo) that comes home from war-torn Iraq in 2004 to discover that her demons have followed her.
This 160 page piece of historical fiction (that does contain page numbers!) tackles a number of issues that female soldiers faced in that era of war. Laws and protocol have changed a bit since then, but that does not discount the emotional and sexual abuse that many soldiers experienced and are still experiencing.
The art is black and white and seems to be done in light-stroke pencil/charcoal. At times, the images are a bit photo-realistic and other times, they are not, and I feel that the realistic focus of the images cause them to appear faint on the page. Maybe that’s supposed to represent Liz’s depression, but I wanted a darker image on the page. It’s a small criticism. Honestly, the subject matter here trumps any issues that I would have with the art. PTSD is too real for the men and women of our Armed Forces, and I feel that this book is a solid addition to the collection of books about the returning home of soldiers that are out there. And we need more. These stories can work in many different ways: they can help soldiers deal with their own struggles; they can inform the public of what our returning soldiers go through; they can document a time in American history that shutters in its own complexity.
I have not even brushed upon the plot of this graphic novel because it’s really about the relationships and interactions that Liz has with those around her. The plot is secondary. She comes home to a small family and a few friends that do not do much to help her navigate her emotions. The majority of the story comes in the form of her relationship with an angry stray dog that she finds when she returns home. The dog, reminding her of her dog in Iraq, shapes many of Liz’s actions throughout the book, creating an interesting/important relationship. Like many that have gone through the unspeakable, Liz feels more at home with a silent, non-judgmental furry friend then humans that are difficult to relate.
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