Polit­i­cal Pow­er: Volodymyr Zelenskyy

  • Review
By – May 8, 2023

The Jew­ish pres­i­dent of a coun­try with a his­to­ry of anti­semitism, Volodymyr Zelen­sky is now the proud face of resis­tance against Russ­ian aggres­sion. While this graph­ic biog­ra­phy from Tidal­wave Pro­duc­tions leans more into dra­ma than nuance, it suc­ceeds as an engag­ing intro­duc­tion to the life of an unex­pect­ed hero and the chal­lenges he faces today. It is meant to be read in real time, as world events rapid­ly unfold.

The book begins in the present, on Feb­ru­ary 25, 2022. Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky and his advi­sors look out at the read­er, recit­ing the ter­ri­ble facts of their country’s inva­sion. Zelen­sky con­cludes with the now-famil­iar state­ment of defi­ance, Glo­ry to Ukraine.” Pablo Martinena’s ini­tial images are sim­ple, with rel­a­tive­ly few dis­tin­guish­ing details. The next page flash­es back to Zelensky’s pre­vi­ous career as the star of a pop­u­lar com­e­dy, Ser­vant of the Peo­ple, in which he played a his­to­ry teacher who is even­tu­al­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent. Michael Frizell demon­strates how his­to­ry meets fate — how a tal­ent­ed TV star becomes a sym­bol of uncom­pro­mis­ing courage.

The fol­low­ing sec­tion goes even fur­ther into the past, estab­lish­ing the core events of Zelensky’s fam­i­ly his­to­ry: This is a sto­ry about a fam­i­ly of four broth­ers. Three of them … became vic­tims of the Holo­caust.” The sur­viv­ing broth­er would become Zelensky’s grand­fa­ther. And his grand­moth­er would return to her coun­try after the war, tak­ing in all its ruin. It is here that Martineau’s pic­tures become sub­tler, more evocative. 

Jew­ish iden­ti­ty is cen­tral to the biog­ra­phy, accu­rate­ly reflect­ing Zelensky’s ref­er­ences to the Holo­caust in many of his speech­es. The author and illus­tra­tor do, how­ev­er, enlist some cre­ative license, fea­tur­ing an image of him read­ing the Torah in what appears to be a bar mitz­vah cer­e­mo­ny and describ­ing how he has pre­served his faith.” Such details can­not be cor­rob­o­rat­ed; they seem to be used here as a way of trans­lat­ing his strong sense of Jew­ish­ness into a visu­al form.

Anoth­er fas­ci­nat­ing pan­el recalls an infa­mous exchange between Zelen­sky and Pres­i­dent Trump. The Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, depict­ed as a heavy­set fig­ure with blind­ing­ly blond hair, reminds Zelen­sky of the strong rela­tion­ship between their two coun­tries. Then comes the request to do us a favor, though,” which appears in a word bub­ble as Zelen­sky holds the phone, lis­ten­ing with trep­i­da­tion. Three pages are devot­ed to this mem­o­rable, increas­ing­ly intense event. The US leader becomes more and more deter­mined to bend Zelen­sky to his will. The con­trast between the two lead­ers’ facial expres­sions con­veys the pow­er imbal­ance between them, yet it also points out the irony that Zelen­sky is the more pow­er­ful fig­ure today .

The term pro­pa­gan­da” car­ries a con­no­ta­tion of lies, but it actu­al­ly refers to the delib­er­ate use of ideas or infor­ma­tion to fur­ther a cause. It may be based on mis­in­for­ma­tion or the truth. Polit­i­cal Pow­er: Volodymyr Zelen­sky does not dis­guise its pur­pose, warn­ing that as of this writ­ing, the war with Rus­sia continues.”

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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