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The Coldest City by Antony Johnston
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The Coldest City (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Antony Johnston, Sam Hart (Illustrator)

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243443,774 (3.43)None
Member:storyjunkie
Title:The Coldest City
Authors:Antony Johnston
Other authors:Sam Hart (Illustrator)
Info:Oni Press (2012), Hardcover, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:comics, fiction, germany, cold war, spy

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The Coldest City by Antony Johnston (2012)

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Originally posted here.

The history major in me could not pass up this particular graphic novel. Although the Cold War is not one of the time periods I especially gravitate towards, it is definitely a great era for spy drama, which is what The Coldest City is. There's as much drama, backstabbing and mystery as an episode of Alias. Well, maybe not quite that much, or quite that colorful, but still quite dramatic.

All of that drama, though, is told in a very detached style. Most of the story is told in flashbacks as Broughton, the female spy sent to Berlin to see what's going on after the death of an agent, gives her report to her superiors at MI6. The graphic novel really had a noir feeling I thought, which was only exacerbated by the black and white illustrations.

The artwork did not particularly appeal to me, although it did complement the atmosphere of the story. The images are very shadowed and obscured, rather like the truth. I appreciate them for that, but, aesthetically, they're not especially pleasing.

The one thing that I really felt made this graphic novel stand out was, for me personally, a big plus, but could, for another reader, be a serious detractor. Johnston does not just do all of the dialog in English; the language spoken by the character is the language on the page. This is not especially unique. What is unique is that there is rarely any translation offered. If you don't speak that language, it's all up to the context or an online translator for you. Most of the non-English parts were German, which, conveniently enough, is the other language I know, so I was fine and really enjoyed this. Had I not spoken that language, I think I might have been annoyed and frustrated, because the parts in German are not always simple and easy to derive from context.

All in all, I came away feeling rather meh about this one. The story didn't feel quite fleshed out enough for me to really feel wowed. However, I think it could have some definite appeal for fans of spy stories.
( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
I probably shouldn't have read this one so fast. The art leans toward a quiet, stately pace, much like a good mystery or intrigue should.

Set in Berlin, as the Wall fell, this is a great spy story, with layers and double-meanings as well as double-agents. Taking full advantage of the comics medium, the art give shadow and un-reality to the story as the reader becomes resigned to not trusting any of the characters or what they say.

The ending is a kick in the teeth, in a good way. ( )
  storyjunkie | Nov 13, 2012 |
Reason for Reading: I love cold war spy thrillers.

An enjoyable spy thriller that takes place during the weeks that lead up to and follow the breaking of the Berlin Wall. Told from a British point of view, this has all the makings for a good espionage tale. MI6, CIA, KGB and East German agents all play a part. The story is told backwards through a debriefing of a female agent who was sent to Berlin on a mission where she meets up with an old-timer misogynist agent who is none to happy to have her arrive. Twists and turns move the plot to an unknown destination as the agents look for missing vital documents, we meet up with possible double agents, assassins and a shroud of doubt surrounding everything. A final surprise twist ending brings a satisfying conclusion and fans of the genre will have a gripping read.

I'm on the fence about the artwork. I appreciate that it is done in black and white as it suits the atmosphere and story well. The large panels are well executed but I find I'm just not a fan of the artist's style which is very shadowy and indistinct. Incredibly so, for the regular size panels, at times I had no idea what I was looking at. This, of course, is a reflection on my taste in art, ymmv. Though not to my tastes I do grant that it worked with the story it told. ( )
1 vote ElizaJane | May 30, 2012 |
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Set in the days immediately preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall, "The Coldest City" follows two British spies through the streets of West Berlin and across the border to the East as they attempt to recover an item of vital interest to national-- and international-- security.… (more)

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