Saturday, August 27, 2011

Crogan's March

by Chris Schweizer

I love these books.  Schweizer is writing and drawing a lengthy series of graphic novels set in different historical periods, featuring the men (strangely, none of the books will be about women) of the Crogan family, a long line of screw-ups who have somehow found themselves involved in military matters throughout history.

This book is about Peter Crogan, a member of the French Foreign Legion, assigned to Northern Africa in 1912.  The Legionnaires were mostly men that were running away from their lives, for a five-year term, and were looked down upon by regular army and their own officers alike.

Crogan is nearing the end of his service, at a period where the French were in almost constant conflict with indigenous Taureg.  During a march to a fort somewhere in the desert, Crogan's column is attacked, but they are able to repel their attackers.  Later, when after they arrive at their fort, they make plans to track down the interlopers, but are again attacked instead.

There is plenty of action of the usual war story type.  There are humorous soldiers, blundering, blow-hardish Captains, wise long-suffering Sergeants, and bravery in the face of insurmountable odds.  There is, however, also an intelligent and realistic sub-text about the attitudes of colonial empires, and the people who serve them.  The locals are given a voice and some sympathy, but nothing is ever treated in a heavy-handed way (except perhaps the modern-day framing sequence).  This is an enlightened view of history, which I can appreciate for its attention to detail and context, which never gets in the way of telling a good story.

Schweizer's art is not the type of cartooning I usually enjoy, but his writing is so good that it doesn't get on my nerves at all.  I can't wait for the next book, Crogan's Loyalty, to be published.

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