Author: Tina Anderson
Artist: Caroline Monaco
Publisher: Iris Print
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: August 2008
Synopsis: “18-year-old seminary student Koby Bruk has watched for two years as the Nazis encroach on Poland. The Hitler Youth now openly attend his classes, and Koby finds himself strangely fascinated by one in particular: the scarred and domineering Oskar Keplar. When Koby is bulled by his classmate Irvine, he chooses to speak up against him. Oskar retaliates, cornering Koby and making a sinister promise.”
The lead of Only Words is Koby, a seminary student who lives his life honestly and quietly within the confines of society in Nazi-inhabited Poland. Affecting his life in a way that will forever stay with him is Oskar, a Nazi soldier, and between them is arranged a seductively dangerous encounter.
Koby is a somber character and, for the little readers get a glimpse, is a bit of a masochist, his personal sexual attentions on Oskar. The whole story carries along at a pace that suits Koby’s personality, slow and steady, but sharply changes in contrast by appearances of Oskar, whose page-time is brief, but notable, in Koby’s life (for which this book is only a small part of). Panels are laid out evenly and more sparse compared to most, with only about 2-4 panels per page. Honestly, it was nice to read it that way when compared to some graphic novels that suffer from an abundance of clutter.
As both a warning and point of interest, those looking for romance won’t find it here, so don’t let the tender cover fool you. What passes between the characters is lust, if anything, but fluffy love it most certainly is not. No complaints from me however, because the cold, harsh reality of it felt like a refreshing change from the usual unrealistic, forced romantics of many other stories. A little more dark and depressing than some may expect but thankfully not in a way that takes any time to wallow in itself.
With the end set up as it was, and the brief though impacting interactions that will no doubt have a lasting effect on Koby, I would love to see the story taken further since I felt this book worked to set up a great potential follow-up. By the time I’d finished the book, I’d really got the feeling that it was more of a prequel than a standalone.
I really liked Caroline’s artwork here in Only Words. The style has a roundish, cartoon sort of appearance to it but one that compliments the dark story brilliantly. The consistency and cleanness of the work suggested to me much more experience than I later learned the artist had, so all the more kudos to her for such a great work! The character designs were fairly simple but were undoubtedly given their charm by the style portraying them. On the downside, at times the screen-toning seemed a little rough, almost as if it would’ve benefitted from insertion at a higher resolution, but they did work well giving mood to the dark-intended scenes.
On a note on the book itself, a pity Iris Press floundered and flopped as it did, purely based on how much I loved the printing quality, with a nice quality paper cover and a binding that gave it all an easy to flip through, nicely weighted feel and look.
As a whole, I really liked reading Only Words but I definitely felt there should’ve been more to it. I liked what I saw but it only feels like only the start of something bigger. Maybe that’s the intent, maybe it’s not, but a little finishing emptiness aside, Only Words is a good example of the talent pool for global manga-influenced works out there and it’s a read I’m glad I finally got to experience.