Book Review: One Model Nation

When I started reading the graphic novel, One Model Nation (written by Courtney Taylor-Taylor of The Dandy Warhols, art by Jim Rugg (Street Angel), and produced by Mike Allred (Red Rocket 7)), I immediately realized that I did not know enough about post-World War II Germany. I mean, I knew a little; I had heard of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang and the band Kraftwerk, but most of my knowledge of that period of Germany was very vague. And that made me really think about the gaps in my history education. My education, even in college, basically stopped including global history after WWII. However, the period that this graphic novel covers, the mid '70s, was just as tumultuous and critical in Germany as it was anywhere else where political and civil liberties were being tested. While I do think as a story One Model Nation can stand on its own, it also really piqued my interest to learn more.

The premise of One Model Nation is that it is following a fictional art rock band in the '70s, but the authors have also included a "what if" scenario of violence breaking out at concerts, raids at parties, and the turmoil of political unrest. The band, One Model Nation, is getting held up by the media as so-called leaders of the extremist political movement when in actuality they are not part of it at all. They are simply musicians who are part of the same generation of youth that are attending their concerts, and some of that youth are joining the terrorist organization. Overlaying this scenario onto the music scene of the time lets the author explore the convergence of political and artistic tensions, the collective German guilt over the previous Nazi regime, and an unhappy youth who feel suppressed and anger towards the older generation. And most importantly, what happens to the artists who get caught in the middle.

One of my favorite aspects of the comic was the art done by Jim Rugg. The members of the band One Model Nation are pale, sketched in, almost unfinished looking throughout the novel, while other characters in the comic, such as Ulrike Meinhof the terrorist, and the brief appearance of David Bowie, are drawn in detail with more vivid coloring, almost popping off the page in comparison. The contrast between the two is a wonderful symbol of the band getting swept away by events outside of their control, as if they are already fading away. This is reiterated in the final scenes of the novel, that almost seem anti-climactic, but uphold the theme that in the tumult of the time the artists are the ones that are forgotten. It is a haunting, rather sad ending.

All in all, I really enjoyed this graphic novel even without knowing the background history. But I think I liked it more once I read up on the history. I also equally enjoyed the Foreword by Michael Allred and the story behind the story by Courtney Taylor-Taylor. I think collectively it built up to a really interesting graphic novel, and its power is in the way it stays with you later. I would recommend this to those especially interested in the way art and music emerge into their environment.

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