Cory and Eric’s father must just be constantly looking for an opportunity to delve into a complicated geopolitical topic and/or an excuse to tell the life story of one of his ancestors.
How else to explain the fact that when he and his wife end up refereeing a conflict between their boys, involving Eric stopping Cory from buying a particular type of candy, because the older, wise brother knew it contained an ingredient the younger one didn’t really like, he boils it down thusly:
You know, you boys aren’t the first to argue over this principle…You’re arguing whether or not one entity—in your case, a person, but sometimes we’re talking about a country—can take away another’s capacity to act on its own choices.
After a little back and forth between the four members of the family, the patriarch launches into the story of Corporal Peter Crogan of the Foreign Legion, who naturally had to face the issues revolving around the ethics of imperialism as part of his job, occupying and defending swathes of North Africa for France, whether the native people wanted him to do so or not.
If I were Cory or Eric, I’d be afraid to open my big mouth around my dad…or maybe not, depending on how great a storyteller he is.
Writer/artist Chris Schweizer cuts away from the kitchen scene set-up in Crogan’s March (Oni Press) to present the story of Crogan as an unfiltered comics story, so we don’t hear exactly what the dad says or how he says it, but he must know how to tell a story, given the wide-eyed, slack-jawed looks of awe on the two boys’ faces when we return to the kitchen after hearing about Crogan’s story.
Schweizer, however, sure knows how to tell one.
Despite the issue that initiates the tale’s telling, it’s not till around page 90 or so that the issue of imperialism comes up, and if the story is about that at all, it’s more of a meditation on it than message-oriented.
Two of Crogan’s superior officers have strong opinions on the matter. The mean, tight-ass, less well-liked of the two believes France has a duty to help the occupied because France knows what’s best, while the popular, devil-may-care officer doesn’t seem to care one way or the other, although he sort of hates the Africans. Of the two, the former is presented as the more sane of the two, and thus more likely to be “right,” but then, things end badly for him and just about everyone else in the story.
As for Crogan, he basically just tries to muddle though and takes every opportunity to help someone that comes up, his beliefs on the philosophical questions his descendents would argue over kept to himself, his actions providing the only clues.
That probably makes Crogan’s March sound like a much duller book than it actually is. These questions give the work an aura of smarts, but it’s first and foremost an occasionally quite funny action adventure story.
Crogan and his troop have just survived a sandstorm when we pick up with them, and we follow him and the other colorful characters into town, into a bar brawl and into one battle after another. Ultimately Crogan is captured, and must rescue and lead a small band of people who don’t much care for the French to safety.
It’s terrifically exciting stuff, and Schweizer draws the characters just as well through his writing as he does on paper. His character design chops are pretty incredible, as each and every character is given their own highly-exaggerated, cartoony-to-the-point of caricature design, and yet they all look like they belong in the same world together.
The cartoony features of the characters allows Schweizer to get away with a lot of emotional storytelling (and sly jokes) in the artwork itself, as the funny faces communicate so much all by themselves without need of dialogue or too many panels being spent on them. It also lends the book a disarming quality—the gap between the sort of story it looks like and the issues it ends up grappling with is wide enough that Crogan’s March is awfully subversive, if you care to think about it too deeply.
And if you’d rather just enjoy a rollicking adventure yarn with a ton of loose, fun drawings, well, it’s that too.
This is actually the second of Schweizer’s Crogan’s books, following 2008’s Crogan’s Vengeance, although it stands completely on its own, and is a fine starting point to Schweizer’s historical adventure stories featuring the Crogan bloodline, and more such stories are currently being created. Crogan’s Loyalty is scheduled for a 2011 release.