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One Model Nation is set in Germany in the 1970s, deep into the Cold War. The story, which is historical fiction, follows a fictitious band who is hitting it big in the alternative scene, but getting a lot of bad press because some of their fans are part of a terrorist group.

Sounds okay up to that point, but they kind of lost me after that. I got the general premise, but I found the flow of the graphic novel very confusing. Firstly, the art style didn’t do the story any favours. I really struggled to work out which band member was which and what was going on. It took me two reads of it to realise a) there is a robot, b) where the robot is in the book. Turns out, it’s just a mannequin pushing one key on a keyboard. Why is there a robot, you might ask? I still have no idea.

None of the band members really ever got fleshed out, either, which made it really difficult for me to bond with any of them or care what was happening to them. Not that I generally understood what was happening most of the time. Turns out you needed to go in knowing some of the history; nothing was going to be spelled out here. I ended up spending a fair amount of time reading up on the terrorist group on Wikipedia just to get some idea of what was going on. My general rule of thumb when writing something is your audience shouldn’t have to go away and read up on the material. If they leave, you’ve lost them.

I also felt the story was incredibly anti-press, but without any real reasoning as to why. The band tries to contact the press and straighten out their story. Just because their fans are terrorists doesn’t mean they are. The press twists what they say. This happens a few times, but, I felt the band was just naive, not that the press was evil.

I feel if this had been the first of several more to come, it could have been a very interesting read. As it is, it felt like I was reading the highlights of a bigger story without the context necessary to appreciate it.

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Written by Pilbeam