Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks

With the approach of the 100th anniversary of the First World War, there have been a plethora of books on the material. This title, written by Max Brooks (of World War Z fame) takes a different look at things. First, his subject is just one particular unit in the war, the 369th Infantry Regiment. The 369th had the longest combat deployment of American units, never gave up ground, and never had a soldier captured. They fought with such ferocity and bravery that the Germans dubbed them “Harlem Hellfighters”. But this historic black regiment faced considerable discrimination from their own country even before they started training. This fictionalized graphic novel follows the enlistment, training, and battles, both at home and abroad, of the 369th Infantry Regiment.  
In his dialogue, Brooks makes it plain that he regards the soldier’s treatment as an injustice. But that their courage and their resolve, both on the battlefield and off, demand respect. The black and white art does an excellent job of capturing the conflicting emotions of the soldiers of the 369th and the confusion and horrors of the First World War. Overall, this is an excellent graphic novel. When you add the importance of the subject matter, this becomes one of my favorite graphic novels to come out this year. Fans of military history, civil rights history, and graphic novels will all enjoy the Harlem Hellfighters.

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