Monday, April 2, 2012

Crogan's Novels by Chris Schweizer

Reviewed by Victoria Dixon

These graphic novels by Chris Schweizer, named for their heroes, are all set in various historical settings and are stand-alone stories. Each book starts with the modern Crogan family and their problems. Whatever issue has arisen, mostly between the two boys, the father manages to diffuse the tension with the retelling of a family story.
I wish I had the genius the father displays. The stories of his ancestors, all with the last name of Crogan, are sometimes funny, frequently touching and always heroic. The Crogan graphic novels the publisher, Oni, sent me were Crogan’s Vengeance, Crogan’s Loyalty and Crogan’s March.
Crogan’s Vengeance is technically the first of the series, but they can be read in any sequence. Set in 18th Century in the Caribbean, “Vengeance” will appeal to anyone who loves pirate stories. It’s a tale of brain vs. brawn, but has plenty of betrayal, intrigue, swordplay and swashbuckling.

Crogan’s March details one of the Crogan family's relative’s last days of service in the French Legionnaires. Set in 1912 Africa, the story was the most poignant of the stories in my opinion.  It also displays some amazing story telling ability. There eight pages of panels blacked out because the characters are inside a pitch dark cave. It's to the author's credit that he's made all five of his characters voices so distinctive at this point, the reader has no problem telling who is speaking or recognizing when an additional, unexpected person joins the party. In fact, that scene is so well done, I didn't pay it any attention until I returned to the books to write this review and recognized the skillful writing required. Well done, Mr. Schweizer.

Crogan’s Loyalty is the tale of two brothers at the beginning of the American Revolutionary war and the questions men of that time faced: to whom and what they do they owe their loyalty and why? This time period has never been a favorite of mine, but I enjoyed the novel because of the characters' struggles and decisions. Even minor characters became real people.
Each of these stories deals with the heavy questions of their characters’ days and in “Loyalty” and “March” the answers aren’t easy and come with a price. (Even in “Vengeance,” there is a price, but it’s not, perhaps, as harsh as in the other books.) However, in none of these books is there a shying away from consequences - something so frequently seen in modern movies. That brave acceptance of events is something I enjoyed and appreciated.
Once I started reading these books, I couldn’t put them down and finished one graphic novel a day over the course of three days. I expect to read many more now that I've discovered the books.
For anyone who enjoys graphic novels or historical fiction, they are a must read, brought to you by the publisher of Petrograd, Union Station, Whiteout, Scott Pilgrim Saves the World and others. If you have children reluctant to read history, the Crogan novels give a great slice-of-life view of their various time periods and a jumping-off-point for discussion. However, don’t let that lead you to believe these are funny books for kids. They are one of those rare things: books for a wide age-range.

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