I wish I could have read the previous volumes but really, this can stand on its own. You are given a quick synopsis of the overarching plot but the focus is solely on WWI. And in this, the book shines - though at times despite the information given.
For me, the book stood out as an amazingly comprehensive look at WWI. There are jokes, though sparingly and rather tasteful when you consider the previous volume's name: Donner's Dinner Party. Ewww. Mostly the "comic" aspect consisted of the countries being represented by animals. This is not like a child's picture book; think Maus or Redwall. The creatures are connected with the countries- Griffins for Austro-Hungry, Bears for Russia, Eagle for Germany; though there are a few humorous ones like bulldogs for the UK and bunnies for the US - and the settings they are placed in are in no way funny. Truthfully, the animals help the reader know who is fighting who and where everyone is.
Make no mistake, this is not a fluffy retelling of the war. While the pictures were never gory, the information was not cleaned up either. The horrible conditions and terrible tragedies are discussed and put in context. And there are disturbing scenes. The ones that stood out to me were the ones showing a full page sized god of war Ares or Mars (I can't remember how they referred to him) standing over a pot as hundreds of tiny bodies poured in. Each year, he gets scarier as the modern elements of the war become part of him. They are horrible but poignant. I believe they will stay with me forever.
But what truly made this so strong was how well the events are laid out. Granted, even the book acknowledges it only covers the European scene. What it does cover, though, it covers very well. I felt I could finally see the battles, etc. chronologically.
This was surprisingly one of the best history teaching graphic novels I've seen. While certainly not in the same league as Maus, this is an educating and entertaining volume. I hope the read the others soon.