Crogan’s Vengeance, the first book in Chris Schweizer’s series, The Crogan Adventures, is about “Catfoot” Crogan’s time serving on a pirate ship. It was a critical success, earning an Eisner nomination and a place on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, among other honors. The second book, Crogan’s March, about Peter Crogan, a soldier in the French Foreign Legion, is a more challenging story, but it’s just as full of action and adventure as the first.
The Crogan Adventures: Crogan’s March
Oni Press, 2009, ISBN: 9781934964248
168 pp., $14.95
Legionnaire Peter Crogan has survived sand storms so fierce they’ll slice a man to ribbons, fought bandits and freedom fighters, and watched friends die in combat. With just one month left before his hitch with the Foreign Legion is over, Peter is given the chance to become an officer. But before he can decide if he wants to reenlist, a pompous new commander foolishly orders the company to engage in a fight that can’t be won, and Peter must choose between saving civilians or saving himself.
Crogan’s March is as sweeping and romantic as any of the Hollywood versions of Beau Geste. And like in the movies, the supporting cast falls into line according to the appropriate stereotypes, but each caricature, from the reckless, imperialist officer to the long-suffering, but empathetic sergeant to the swarthy villain who does everything but twirl his mustache, is used effectively to help younger readers understand the consequences of foreign occupation.
I agree, the pros and cons of foreign occupation seems like a weird topic for a kids’ comic, but Schweizer makes it work. By using period idioms and regional dialects, Schweizer forces the reader to slow down and pay attention to the dialog and thus the concepts being introduced. The vocabulary used is more advanced than what is usually seen in comics, but it’s carefully chosen and enough explanation is given in the context of the story and illustrations that the reader won’t have to rush for a dictionary to figure out what is going on.
As well-crafted as the dialog is, it’s the action in this story that will keep readers turning the pages. The battle scenes are intense, with busy panels that are miraculously easy to follow, especially considering Schweizer’s liberal use of black. The heavy lines used for the characters make the images pop, emphasizing the vast nothingness of the desert background as well as the delicate patterns on tents and city walls. There is no shying away from death or violence in this story—it is about the French Foreign Legion, after all—but the straight-forward approach (not to mention the lack of red blood) keeps the book middle school-appropriate.