The Kursk focuses on the Russian naval disaster that occurred in August of 2000; the sinking of the submarine Kursk. During the morning of August 12th the submarine had taken part in Russia’s first large-scale naval exercise since the end of the Soviet Union, while the ship had been praised as unsinkable.
An explosion occurred when a dummy torpedo was being loaded and another, much larger, explosion occurred just two minutes later. Twenty-three sailors survived the explosions and took shelter in the ninth compartment until they died six hours later when their oxygen supply depleted. Seven days later the Russian government finally accepted foreign assistance. It wasn’t until August 21st, nine days after Kursk sank, that the submarine’s hatch was opened by the rescue team.
The writer of this comic, Sasha Janowicz, stated that he felt a strong emotional connection to the sailors and crew, and clearly still does after all these years. Kursk takes place during the first day of the disaster, on August 12th. These first two issues do not attempt to place blame for the incident on any person or group of people; they show the situation from multiple perspectives in order to paint a picture of the horror of the event as a whole instead of following just one specific character. Though several characters shine more than others.
The art, by Andrea Montano, evokes the German expressionist films of the 1920’s and 30’s to great effect. The last panel on page #22 of issue #1 could have been a shot in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. At the same time the black and white images look like they came out of classic Hollywood films, giving the series a cinematic feel while adding some weight to the story, as well as a feeling of a coming doom. Also, whenever Montano draws a character smoking it makes the act look amazing and quite appealing, and I say that as a non-smoker. Really, she could have easily drawn smoking advertisements in the mid 1900’s. The cover, by Slawomir Nietupski, looks very nice as well.
I had never heard of the Kursk disaster before reading these issues, so I had to look through them more than once. In a way that is good because it allows readers to further their engagement with the story, which I assume is the writer’s goal, based on his afterword. Though, the issues move along pretty quickly and occasionally miss the opportunity to use panels for breathing room, to give the readers and the characters a moment, however short, to try and take in the situation at hand. Often pages are filled by text bubbles that can overwhelm the reader, though maybe that is the point. Generally it works well; the main instances of this occur during the last panels of each issue. The endings of the issues do not feel like endings; when I got to the end of each I was expecting them to continue and was confused by the abrupt endings. This series will read better as a trade paperback as opposed to individual issues at a time.
Some issues I had with the books were minor. Occasionally the blocking of characters in scenes creates some confusion as to where exactly they are in the space they occupy, the two sailor friends have small talk for a while seemingly just to make it more upsetting when they meet their doom, and there is a strange woman, who seems to represent the ocean and death (and just an impending doom), that occasionally walks into scenes (unseen by the other characters) and comments on the story. That woman seems the most out of place, since she gives the books a supernatural element that it doesn’t need. Maybe this character is not of the supernatural, but I just don’t know.
Despite all that I mentioned in those last few paragraphs I still feel invested in this comic. I want to continue reading this series and see what direction it takes. After all, I only read two issues and there is already plenty to like about Kursk.
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