The Life and Lies of Vladmir Putin
*Note: Andrew Benteau and Black Panel Press are not affiliated with the makers of The Accidental Czar. This review is provided purely for entertainment purposes.
Today I’m going to be reviewing The Accidental Czar, a book published by First Second, written by Andrew Weiss, a former White House Russia expert, and illustrated by Brian Box, an award-winning Philadelphia-based illustrator with work in the New York Times and Playboy.
Beginning in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea, tension between Russia and Ukraine erupted into full-blown war in February 2022 when President Vladimir Putin invaded.
The world watched in shock and horror as the conflict unfolded, and many people wondered what would cause a world leader to start such an unprovoked conflict. Putin seemed like a madman out for blood and world domination, not unlike Hitler and other tyrannical dictators throughout history.
But author Andrew Weiss seems to have seen it coming. From a young age, he became fascinated with Russia during the Reagan era, learned the language and eventually worked at the Pentagon and the White House as an expert on Russia.
First the artwork. Brown uses bold, simple line art with flat colours to create a kind of minimalist cartoon style that emphasizes action and emotion. He uses benday dots to create minimal shading and a retro kind of mood that puts us back in the 80s and 90s around the time of the end of the Soviet Union. The style is reminiscent of Guy Delisle and is perfect for comic journalism which is a genre I enjoy.
Although at first he seems like a clumsy hothead, as a young man Putin shows a lot of ambition and determination. He’s seduced by the image of the debonair KGB agent, stylish and sophisticated, and dreams of becoming an agent himself. Unfortunately, Russia is in complete disarray and being a secret agent isn’t what it used to be, but he eventually climbs the ranks from a lowly posting in the countryside to becoming the president of Russia.
Justified or not, over time he becomes more and more suspicious of the West and starts to characterize all of his country’s unrest as “foreign interference” by the U.S. He learns that the world is afraid of him, and progressively escalates into manipulation of the media, cyber attacks, and, of course, all-out-war against Ukraine.
Weiss lays out the story in a way that makes it easier to understand, and that the media have been completely unable to do so because of the way they sensationalize information. He manages, for the most part, to remove bias and factually present the events, including some historical background to explain some of the culture of corruption and nepotism in Russian politics.
The only issue I have with his writing is he seems unable to decide whether Putin is a buffoon or a genius, simultaneously crediting him with “destabilizing the West from within” while also referring to him as a “hothead” who “lacked self-control.”
If you’re interested in picking up the book there will be a link in the below, and it’ll probably be an affiliate link so we’ll earn a small commission to support us.
As always this content is sponsored by Black Panel Press. So if you liked the book you may also like our title The Mad Tsar, which also takes a humorous approach to Russian history and politics with three short stories featuring a fictional Tsar and his misadventures including being mistaken for a peasant and thrown in prison, competing in feats of strength to become the next Khan of the Caucasus, and presiding over his country’s first elections.
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