Genre
Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction
Audience
Ages 13 and Up (contains some gore & war related violence)
Author’s Worldview
Catholic
Year Published
2019
Themes
Joan of Arc, medieval history, heroism, saints, apparitions, French history

Reviewed by

Courtney Guest Kim
The Mission of Joan of Arc opens in the middle of the action at the crisis point of 15th century French history, with the siege of Orléans. Visually, the vantage point is that of the French soldiers defending the medieval city from the top of its ramparts. They can’t hold out much longer against the English troops. We learn from these French defenders of a prophecy about a Maid of Lorraine, who will save France. Then the illustrations cut to young Joan, receiving a vision of Michael the Archangel. At first, she refuses the strange commission to put the French crown prince on his rightful throne. She prays to St. Catherine for advice. And the rest is history….

Part one of this graphic novel goes on to tell how Joan overcomes the skepticism of the French leaders. She cuts her hair and dresses like a soldier—a decision that will have fateful results. A revelation shows her the location of an ancient sword buried at the church of St. Catherine. She claims this sword as her own, although she herself does not kill anyone in battle, despite being on the front lines, leading the French troops. At the height of success, she receives a supernatural warning of her own future suffering and personal defeat, which will however contribute to the success of her mission.

Part two takes us back to the city of Orléans after it has been captured by the English. Now the roles are reversed, and Joan is leading the French troops in the assault to take back the city. She is victorious, and as a result, the French prince is crowned Charles VII. He himself is no saint, and the political intrigues of the day result in the betrayal of Joan, who is captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English. Imprisoned in Rouen, she is charged by her captors as a heretic and interrogated for weeks. Condemned to death, she is burned at the stake on 29 May 1431. The final image is of Joan both burning and beholding St. Michael in heaven, calling to Jesus.

Voyage Comics’ interpretation of the Life of Joan of Arc is based on the play written by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and an afterword gives some background about that source material, as well as filling in some historical details. (Declared innocent by the Church in 1456, St. Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920.) The dynamic, vivid illustrations capture the sheer energy of the life and times of the peasant girl who would become a saint. The medium of the graphic novel makes it possible to apprehend the brutality of her environment and the mysterious quality of her calling, without such shocking images as to make the narrative unsuitable for young readers. It is an excellent rendition in its faithfulness to source material. Both the knowledgeable adult reader already familiar with Joan’s story and the young comic book fan with no prior information can enjoy and learn from this fantastic resource: a saint’s life truly brought to life by the intertwined narrative and visual art of the graphic novel.

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