1933: In a small German state, the last democratic election is about to take place before a failed artist named Hitler seizes power. The election is Hitler’s chance to manipulate events that will lead to the death of millions.
2010: After a man dies during a political act inspired by a work of art, the artist flees to Europe to escape her guilt. Through a chance meeting, she discovers the truth of the 1933 election. The past becomes pivotal as she decides her future.
The Listener reveals one of the world’s most tragic acts of spin doctoring while weaving a compelling tale of complacency, art, power, and murder. It is a startling little-known story that changed the course of history.
Lester’s monochrome panels are lovely, bringing an emotional payload to all that heavy subject matter — quite powerfully in a couple of places. A timeline of Nazi history is included, up to the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2010 admission that America granted protection to Nazi war criminals. It further seals the case that this affecting and thoughtful debut belongs on any grown-up comic bookshelf that also includes, say, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Alan Moore and Joyce Brabner’s Iran-Contra history, Brought to Light. — Adrian Mack, in Georgia Straight
Seven years in the making, The Listener is David Lester’s (Mecca Normal) epic graphic novel that blends historical fiction, art, and politics. The result is a dark, black-and-white, forward work that will certainly challenge its reader. — Indie Street
As for Lester’s art, it sweeps across the pages, changing as if it is alive with his thoughts. — Kristin Bomba, in ComicAttack.net
The Listener is a good book for anyone who would be classified as either a history buff, an art buff, or a basic comic/graphic novel fan (unless they require the inclusion of spandex or rayon). — Bernard C. Cormier, in Times & Transcript
Art Spiegelman has already covered the tragedies and travails of that epic conflict in his deeply personal and poignant graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. But, Lester’s take on the story is slightly different. Just as Spiegelman juxtaposes his contemporary life and his father’s struggles during the Holocaust, Lester similarly contrasts the past and present. Only, The Listener seems more like a political treatise than a personal memoir. — Jessica Pena, in Daily Californian
Lester’s drawing is wonderfully expressive and the book is an intense and well-structured look at a forgotten pivotal moment in history that uses the medium of comics to revisit that time and propose an antidote to generalized political malaise and anomie. In this sense the book is a fitting tribute to the work of Lester’s cartooning precursors who fought the good fight in the 1930s, as well as a modern call to arms. — BK Munn, in Sequential
The best thing about The Listener is its art. I’m not exactly sure how writer/artist David Lester achieved its effect, maybe some combination of pen for outlines and brush for the smeary shading? In any case, the pages all look like the rough studies a serious artist might draw when preparing a painting or a sculpture, and that fits perfectly with the framing story, which follows an artist making such drawings. —Joshua Malbin, in joshuamalbin