Review by Frank Plowright
This is the second of Chris Schweizer’s ambitious undertaking to deliver a series of graphic novels relating the lives of assorted Crogan family members through the ages, the first being Crogan’s Vengeance.
As previously, the narrative entrance is the modern-day Crogans, with father Crogan defining an issue via reference to an ancestor, this time Peter, a member of the French Foreign Legion in 1912. The Legion accept anybody with no questions asked, but the price to be paid for refuge is notoriously harsh treatment and conditions. The moral issue at stake is whether anyone has the right to enforce their subjective version of ‘good’ on anyone else.
Peter joined the Legion after double-crossing fight fixers required his rapid disappearance. Now nearing the end of his five year term, Peter is musing on his place in the world. Like his comrades he hates the desert setting, and is beginning to ponder exactly why it is the French are in North Africa imposing themselves on the locals. His doubts are temporarily submerged by the arrival of a new commanding officer, presented as a hero due to being the only man to survive several conflicts. Most take him at his charismatic face value, but the wily Sergeant sees a different man. The lessons learned from his experiences through book lead Crogan to a point where has to make a moral choice at which many would baulk.
Schweizer adroitly inserts the required historical information and back story into his narrative without it intruding, and he introduces several humanising touches characterising what would otherwise be brutes. An example is their relationship with the youngest among them, only fifteen. He’s the butt of jokes, but his comrades are also protective and keen to educate.
In his blog prior to publication Schweizer noted the difficulty of drawing rigid uniforms when his inclination is toward shape-based cartooning. While the uniforms are uniform, the facial features Schweizer applies are wildly varied, and he differentiates his cast well enough so that when they spend a period in total darkness it’s still apparent whose dialogue is inked in.
So, great cartooning, an interesting topic with a moral core, and a story that never sinks into the comfortably predictable. That’s all good, but where Crogan’s March falls down is by extending scenes far longer than necessary. It’s an odd failing as Schweizer the artist has to spend considerable time illustrating what Schweizer the author writes, yet this could be comfortably compressed into 75% of the 208 pages used, meaning the story can drag in places.