Friday, 19 December 2014

The Harlem Hellfighters

Last book review for the year! And it has nothing to do with survival or zombies. 

Okay there is a link to zombies because it is written by Max Brooks who, of course, is the author of The Zombie Survival Guide, The Zombie Survival Guide - Recorded Attacks and World War Z

But this book is very different, it's about history. A piece of history unknown by many because the key players where African Americans. This is an account of the African Americans soldiers who fought in the First World War. It is a gripping tale about the injustice and racism these brave soldiers faced, from their own country and people. They were literally set up to fail as the US Government and white Americans feared what would happen if these soldiers proved their worth. 

And prove their worth they did. Called "The Harlem Hellfighters" by the Germans, the 369th Infantry Regiment was the first all black regiment and it became one of the most decorated units in the entire American Expeditionary Force. They spent 191 days in combat, longer than any American Unit, black or white. While Max has written a fictionised account of this unit, a number of the characters are based on real people. Like the African American Henry Johnson, the first American to receive the French Cross of War (the US Government finally awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross in 2003).

Max wrote this story as a screenplay but couldn't find a studio willing to make the movie (although I read on the web that Sony and Will Smith have now optioned the film rights). So Max turned it into a Graphic Novel. Probably the main reason I grabbed this book cause I love comics. Illustrated by Caanan White, the artwork is black and white with just some feathering on the solid blacks to create tone. There is nothing overly dynamic about the layouts, artwork or pacing. It all about storytelling. The artwork is still very powerful, graphically displaying the carnage of the war.

Now in a good comic the words and art are like a pair of ballroom dancers. Sometimes they both share the spotlight with their moves but more often one will be there supporting the other partner to shine. Each helps the other to make the dance spectacular. Sadly I felt there were a few stumbles with this comic. Places where the imagery and words didn't line up.

Never-the-less it a great graphic novel with an even greater story. And that sneaky Max even threw in a reference to zombies.

Bite off more comics than you can chew.

Mr Rimsky

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