Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Harlem Hellfighters

The Harlem HellfightersThe Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bringing to light a forgotten regiment of African-American heroes, this graphic novel depicts the horror of World War I and the courage of a group of men who had every deck stacked against them.

The 396th Infantry Regiment, and all-black regiment, was sent to training and to war with one hand figuratively tied behind their backs. They were actively belittled and attacked by their own countrymen, isolated from the other American troops, and even had to resort to trickery to get the weapons they needed from the U.S. Army.

But they returned after seeing more time in the soul-shredding combat of World War I than any other unit (the machine gun was a new invention, as was mustard gas), and after receiving more decorations. They never lost a man to capture.

This black and white graphic novel briefly sketches the characters of men both real and fictional. In color the illustrations would be too gory, but the drawback is that sometimes Caanan White's realistic, detailed images are difficult to understand. There is no denying, though, the emotional power of this story of men fighting both racism and a brutal war.

Max Brooks also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. For more on the history of this remarkable regiment, check out Walter Dean Myers' and Bill Miles' The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage.


"The first country in the world brave enough to be built on nothing but ideals...Even if it wasn't quite ready to live up to them." - p. 221