Saturday, November 15, 2014

Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood

If you have read my other reviews of books in this series, you may remember that I feel they may be the best historical graphic novels I have ever read. The facts and events are very well researched, but more importantly they are presented in a most readable and enjoyable way. Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales are among the most engaging and interesting books I have ever read. So, does this book keep that spotless record intact?

In a word, YES. I thought that this book was most impressive, in that it packed a complete war account into a small space while also creating thrills, showing horrors, and cracking a couple of jokes. Here is the set-up:

And he is correct; this is not a pretty story. It's full of massive casualties, cruelties, and military mayhem. Although the artwork never gets explicit or shows gore, it does show just how brutal and unconscionable the destruction of World War I was. It also tells a very broad story, but not without some specific details included, like the story of Cher Ami, the carrier pigeon that saved 200 lives, and an account of the development of the tank, which was first used in this war to counter trench warfare.

Like I said, what is particularly marvelous to me about this book is how much ground it covers. Part of the reason it accomplishes this goal is the excellent and intelligent artwork. Hale chose to portray the combatants as animals, not only for metaphorical reasons but also because those depictions make it much clearer who is who in the conflict. Although the Executioner tries to play the animals for comic effect, they are not very funny (a few clever puns aside). Seeing a bunch of wolves, eagles, griffins, bulldogs, bunnies, and roosters (among others) engaged in war helps communicate situations almost instantly, in much quicker fashion than using elaborate explanation.
Spoiler: The war ends.
The great economy and efficiency of the artwork works like a combination of infographics and politic cartoons, as you can see in the page above. It is pregnant with ideas and implications about what happened at the end of this war and how it forecasted what would precipitate the next world war. That Hale accomplishes so much in such a short space, and for a wide audience of readers at that, is simply amazing.

In addition to creating the first three entries in this series, Nathan Hale also has drawn two other graphic novels, Rapunzel's Revenge and its sequel Calamity Jack. He has also worked on a variety of children's books, including Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody and The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas. He shares a lot of fun artwork and news via his blog. He speaks much more about his career and work on this book in this interview.

All of the reviews I have read have been very positive. Kirkus Reviews called it "A neatly coherent account with tweaks that allow readers some emotional distance—but not enough to shrug off the war’s devastating cost and world-changing effects." Johanna Draper Carlson praised this entry in a "terrific series" and added, "I really appreciate Nathan Hale’s (the author, not the character, although that applies too) ability to streamline complicated historical events in such readable fashion." Miriam, Age 10 wrote, "This book was interesting and interestingly told, and very entertaining for a history book."

Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood was published by Amulet Books. There is a preview available at Amazon. And if you are a fan of this series like I am, there is good news: a fifth book, The Underground Abductor, is on the way!

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