Crogan's March

"Crogan's March" is a graphic novel in a series following the exploits of the male descendants of the Crogan family, all of whom have had a variety of adventurous lives.

The story begins with a contemporary Crogan telling his two sons, who had been fighting over how the older one had prevented the younger from buying candy he knew his brother would hate, a story about their ancestor Peter Crogan, a corporal in the French Foreign Legion in 1912.

Right off the bat we're shown the dangerousness and brutality of the situation, as Peter discovers that a Spanish friend of his had wandered off during a sandstorm and is most likely dead. Arriving in the Arab city of Tazifet, Peter's company acquires its new commander, the dashing Captain Roitelet, and a new mission: to escort some Arab nobles to another city on their way to the fort where they're to be stationed. The rest of the comic deals with how the mission pans out.

The characters are really the best part of the graphic novel. Peter himself is a bit of a mystery (we only get hints of his past), serious and steady. However, despite his lack of a flashy personality, he's quite likable as a protagonist, as his steadiness makes him work well as a character for things to happen around. His friends Gerald, Bailey, and the Kid serve as foils to Peter, the first two significantly sillier than him, the third (as might be expected from his nickname) severely less experienced. For me, however, the two most interesting characters were the aforementioned Captain Roitelet and his second in command, the seriously hardass Sergeant Ludlow, both of whom prove to be much more complex characters than might be expected.

I also liked how Chris Schweizer, the author and illustrator of the graphic novel, is a master of foreshadowing. Tiny details mentioned in passing prove to be very important later on, and the true characters of Ludlow and Roitelet can be guessed fairly early on, if you pay close attention.

The artwork is interesting, being very simplified and somewhat cartoony, but never letting that undercut the seriousness of the story. And indeed, the story gets very serious very soon--be prepared for lots of characters to die. The book is not all grimness, though--a scene where the legionnaires learn why it wasn't a good idea to sell their underwear for beer money is particularly funny, for instance.

All in all, I really liked this book. I look forward to reading about the further adventures of the Crogan family; if they're as interesting as this one, then they'll be a delight to read. 

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