Like many other films and books over the year, the success of The Death of Stalin has produced a prequel graphic novel. With such a long and bloody history before Stalin’s reign ended, Fabien Nury had so many colourful characters and eras to explore. Nury chooses to visit 1904, 13 years before the Russian revolution, when Moscow’s Grand Duke Sergegi Alexandrovich was assassinated. Nury takes this story of Alexandrovich’s final days and explores it from both sides of the bullet: the victim and the assassin.
Much like The Death of Stalin, Russia, bordering on collapse, is filled with paranoid characters, each backstabbing and plotting. The nation feels to be in a familiar cycle.
The first part of this graphic novel follows Alexandrovich’s final days as Moscow’s Grand Duke, a bumbling leader whose actions leads to the death of countless Russians. History is built on these sort of moments and the consequences of his actions will lead to his downfall. Alexandrovich feels the grim reaper is closing as rumours of a forthcoming assassination ripple around Moscow. Alexandrovich spends his final days trying to get his estate in order and pondering if this will be his last moments.
On the flip side of the novel, we explore those final days from the viewpoint of Georgi, the assassin. George is a man of conviction, who is ready and willing to fire a bullet into anyone who stands in his path. In Alexandrovich’s side, we feel like anyone could be the assassin, as we read through it you are torn about who could be the one to pull the trigger. Alexandrovich’s paranoia makes for gripping reading, the uncertainty and fear he feels as he walks down halls or passes known faces or strangers who could be potential assassins.
The parallel stories make for an exciting read, we see the lust for power of the working man and a Grand Duke. Their lives are polar opposite but they’re united in their desire for power and their ultimate fate. Revolution is only a few years away and these critical few days feel like a critical piece in a revolution that Is brewing among the Russian people.
The Death of Stalin as a novel and a film has exploded with positive reviews, award recognition and a pleasing box office draw. A sequel to such a popular novel could easily have fallen short but Nury and Robin have created a fantastic piece of literature and art with Death of the Tsar that grips the reader straight away. This story captures one of the many small cuts that will lead to the Russian revolution, looking at small characters and stories that will become elevated by history.