This book is exquisite. ‘Voices: The Final Hours Of Joan Of Arc’ has brought life once again to one of the most unforgettable and extraordinary female warrior icons. Everyone knows her name, but do they know her story?
Told in verse, in different medieval forms of poems, ’Voices’ is so unique (some stanzas are shaped like the subject that is ‘speaking,’ ie the sword or the crossbow). David Elliott has written such a compelling account of Joan’s short life from her beginnings in Domrémy, to her visions of the Saints, the battles she led against the English, and her eventual capture and execution. The encroaching ‘Fire’ poem that repeats throughout the novel is particularly clever and impactful.
Back then in 1430 France (when she was captured and put on trial), Joan was viewed with suspicion and as an affront to the Crown because she dressed in armor and wanted to ’look like a man’. She didn't believe she should have to stay at home ’to sew and mate’ when a war was being fought, simply because she didn't want to, never mind her sexuality. Her story has always been known as one of the earliest examples of a woman standing up against misogyny, against a patriarchal system that didn't make sense to her, and because her beliefs simply wouldn't allow her to sit down and accept what was happening around her.
Joan’s voice and perspective come through clearly in the novel as brave and courageous, with the right bit of stubborn. She questions the system and pursues her objectives, which give the novel an obvious ambiance of inspiration throughout. I only really wanted more from the novel when it came to the trial and perhaps the very end of her life.
Joan became a Saint after her death and was declared a martyr for everything she gave for ’God and country’. I did appreciate the epilogue and author's note at the end of the book; it seems this work was a labor of love and I enjoyed reading about its inception.
Joan of Arc is a historical figure who is infamous because of the brave, short life she lived, with such a tragic death, and I think Elliott has written something brilliant here that can draw many people in to learn more about her.
The execution, the details, were interesting. I do think that Sean Murphy bent a little things: if Jack Napier were a truly good man, as he's presented here, and had to account for everything that the Joker did, then I think he'd be slightly more shellshocked. Now, I could buy the argument that he was so overwhelmed that he ended up placing all his hopes of forgiveness in Harley Quinn - but that's not how this is presented. It's presented as he feels bad, whoops, let's save Gotham now. (Although a lot of his redemption is all about Harleen, so that was kinda weird, too.) He was a little... off with Harleen, too? Maybe it was calling her Harley, which seemed weird since they were trying so hard to disassociate themselves from their former lives. But there was something else, where it was all too cut and dry: her accepting him, his complete devotion to her, and I found it too far off form The Joker to really be buyable.
Then again, some of this could be explained by the final reveal, although I don't want to go into details: this is well worth reading, and it's worth reading not knowing what's coming in my opinion, so I won't spoil that.
There's so much elegance in this story that it didn't seem more than a star off, and I think the story focuses enough on other things that I couldn't really say this flaw overtook everything. I also think when the love story between The Joker and Harleen doesn't take over? This story is a lot stronger.
And I'm not spoiling things when I say The Joker goes sane or Batman is in Arkham. The tagline on the back is The Joker goes sane, and the first page or so has Batman in Arkham. It's all about the small reveals leading up to the big one at the end. It's a slow burn that's dealt with perfectly for the most part.
Lovely story. I'm definitely going to look into reading more by this writer/artist.