Review by Ian Keogh
In reality, Simon Wiesenthal’s story is equally tragic and inspiring. He survived the Nazi concentration camps during World War II during his thirties, and dedicated the remainder of his life to hunting down Nazis who escaped justice when the war ended. Andre R. Frattino and Jesse Lee dramatise his post-war experiences for Simon Says. However, some might not be happy with the liberties taken to turn Simon into a two-fisted hero.
The story picks up in Berlin in 1946 where Simon works with a US army unit to apprehend those who worked in concentration camps, and he has a wish list of bigger fish. He’s about to be disappointed, though, as with the showcase Nuremberg trials over, there’s little further appetite among the Americans to hunt down further escaped Nazis, and Simon and his friend Bruno are forced to continue their work alone. That this is a fictionalised story is apparent from Frattino giving Simon the extra motivation of his wife dying in the concentration camps, when in reality she survived. He also adds a secret society of former Nazis still living the high life in Berlin, and the fiction irks. Wiesenthal’s dedication and detective work is surely enough to carry a graphic novel without inflated dramatising.
Much else is right. Jesse Lee fills in the locations, evokes the times, and creates an appropriate noir atmosphere for the proceedings, the use of black and white with red as a spot colour effective, if probably sourced from Schindler’s List. Consider it a homage to another incredible man. Lee has problems, however with people, who’re often stiffly posed, and what’s supposed to be a tense action sequence toward the end has wildly inappropriate large sound effects. Presumably intended for emphasis, they instead bring the 1960s Batman TV show to mind. It’s a horrible error of judgement, but from a young artist who has the potential to be phenomenal in the future.
Back cover comparisons with V for Vendetta and The Tattooist of Auschwitz are incredibly cheeky for a graphic novel that has nowhere near the finesse of either. However, accept the dramatisation as an honest attempt to bring Simon Wiesenthal’s activities to a wider audience, and Simon Says proves a twisting action thriller with a ready made background of hateful enemies. Frattino maintains tension via Simon’s sometimes reckless ignorance of possible danger as he single-mindedly pursues his targets, and comes up with inventive surprises along the way. It’s the truth in principle if not actuality.