Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Crecy - A Review

This comic should suck.

Written by Warren Ellis, Crecy is the story of the English Army that fought the French at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. The story is told from the perspective of an English archer, who spends nearly the entire book speaking directly to the reader. Through his narration we learn about the reasons for the war, strategy, what it was like to be a soldier in this army, the revolutionary nature of the English longbow, and ultimately “the English and the French and why the English hate the French.”

While this could make for an interesting history, you can be forgiven for wondering how the hell this makes an entertaining comic and not just a dry recitation of history. The answer is Ellis’ the narrator. Ellis does an incredible job with the voice of William of Stonham. Whether he is describing his hatred of the French, the advantage of different arrowheads, the importance of archery, the tactics of the battle, or what the Welsh do to sheep, his downtrodden tone and constant, innovative cursing never fails to entertain. He may be straight from the Warren Ellis School for Unpleasant Bastards, but he is well suited to this story.

William speaks directly to the reader, giving us a lesson in the historical importance of the Battle of Crecy, but he always keeps the reader grounded. His casual tone alongside the details of the life of an English soldier in the 14th century keeps everything in perspective and makes the historical events we’re seeing relatable and understandable, even if you have zero interest in English history or Medieval warfare.

Though the majority of the book is William speaking to the reader, it mixes it up by having William interact with his fellow soldiers, showing us maps to help us understand the battlefield, and having William and his compatriots shooting Frenchmen in the face with arrows. And honestly, when has people shooting the French in the face NOT made something better? Well, except for WWII. ANYWAY….

The artwork by Raulo Caceres is well suited for the story being told. It is extremely detailed and does an excellent job showing us the muck and filth that probably defined 14th century warfare. Reminiscent of Chris Weston, the art has a classical feel that seems appropriate for a story set this far back. I typically hate the artists Avatar pairs with Ellis on his project, but Caceres seems particularly suited to this story and seems more interested in telling a story than drawing intestines exploding in intricate detail. That said, there is a fair amount of gore in this book and Caceres does it justice.

Crecy is a book that shouldn’t be as good as it is. It’s funny, interesting, AND educational. How can comics continue to rot my brain if they can make learning this fun?

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