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onemodel.jpgC. Albritton Taylor, Donovan Leitch, Jim Rugg
One Model Nation
Image Comics

It’s rare for us here at Racket to review a graphic novel, let alone admitting to have read them. [Emperor’s note: That’s not accurate, I have a profound fascination with graphic novels, as does Caitlin.] The last time this reviewer touched a comic book was perhaps ten years ago, and that’s not counting stuff slugged for school newspapers and the like. So when we found out about One Model Nation, we were skeptical. It turns out that skepticism was misplaced—and for good reason. In what may be one of the more involved graphic novels to date since Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Taylor, Leitch and Rugg manage to tell the story of one of most infamous terrorist groups in Europe’s history, through the eyes of a legendary German rock group that mysteriously disappeared in the latter half of the 1970s, but it is not without its faults.

The place is West Germany, the year 1978. Contrary to the declarations of many pundits and observers, the cold war is nowhere close to thawing. Marxist-style revolutionary organizations dot the landscape, kidnapping ambassadors in Italy, murdering C.I.A. personnel in Greece, and basically sowing fear and mayhem in a population that generally wants to go about their lives. The most notorious of these is the Baader-Meinhof Gang, a faction of the Red Army Faction lead by RAF cofounders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof that murdered hundreds of people, up to the founders’ deaths. In wake of the tumultuous 1960s and discomfort surrounding the previous generation’s Nazi origins, many academics and not a few journalists (as Meinhof once was) hold sympathetic views toward the group. What many do not know is that the Baader-Meinhof group had connections to another kind of group—the hip and cool rock and rollers of the avant garde crowd.

One of these, Sebastian, is the member of a well known group in Germany, Das Model. Despite being anti-social and disdainful of press attention, Sebastian and group members Wolf and Karl have managed to become famous, playing illegal digs in run-down hangars and warehouses (sort of a precursor to raves). However, as the Meinhof gang self-destructs, things get bad for Sebastian and company as they are pulled into Ulrike Meinhof’s own drama within the group. With the police out to persecute them for their connections to the RAF, and personal issues within the band, the Sebastian, Wolf, and Karl face a kind of cross roads few bands ever have before—or ever will again.

Generally, One Model Nation is faithful to the events surrounding the Baader-Meinhof gang’s rise and fall, from the group’s first violent outbursts to the group’s jailing and deaths. However, there is one glaring inconsistency. At the time of the story’s opening, Meinhof and Baader are long since dead—it is impossible for the band to interact with the original RAF members. This is somewhat bothersome, and for someone who prides themselves on historical accuracy, it can impede the suspension of disbelief a great deal (Meinhof also didn’t work in television, but that is neither here nor there). However, facts should never be allowed to get in the way of a good story, and at some level Taylor and Leitch have managed to weave together a cast of characters that are interesting and quirky. Sebastian’s art school earnestness and Ulrike Meinhof’s sociopathic behavior come through page after page. Did I mention that David Bowie and Nina make a special appearance here?

At $18, One Model Nation is a good ol’ fashioned pseudo-biographical rock and roll yarn—no facts necessary.

–Jack Winn