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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This graphic history should be in every Modern American History class
This is an exceptionally well-done book that details the story of the 369th infantry regiment's involvement in the First World War. The truly shameful aspects of Jim Crow America and the dignity of these men who still fought for it are the focuses of this graphic history. This is a book that should be, but due to Common Core Social Studies blather that destroys any...
Published 8 months ago by Matthew Higgins

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Done Though Long-Winded
his is an incredible story I've never read about before. I had heard of it but it was fascinating to finally get the full details of the story. The book is well-written and while being an historical account of the all-black regiment is also an horrendous depiction of the ghastly racism that was so rampant in the US at that time, seething unfiltered straight into its...
Published 1 month ago by Nicola Mansfield


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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This graphic history should be in every Modern American History class, April 3, 2014
By 
Matthew Higgins (Grand Library of Helium, Barsoom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
This is an exceptionally well-done book that details the story of the 369th infantry regiment's involvement in the First World War. The truly shameful aspects of Jim Crow America and the dignity of these men who still fought for it are the focuses of this graphic history. This is a book that should be, but due to Common Core Social Studies blather that destroys any emphasis on cultural literacy won't be, a part of every Modern American History class. Students interested in learning more about the First World War through graphic novels should look to Pat Mills' Charley's War (Vol. 1): 2 June - 1 August 1916 or Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches.

(For those interested in a specific Military History focus, the book does a good job with the First World War in general but probably needs a supplementary text on the nitty-gritty of French-loaned equipment of and battles fought within by the 369th to fill that need. (This seems like an ideal title for the Osprey Elite series but sadly such a Harlem Hellfighters volume does not exist.)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Makes You Want More, April 25, 2014
By 
This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
I read an article about this in Entertainment Weekly and had just finished reading another book about World War 1 (Sergeant Stubby) which had whetted my appetite to find out more.

Canaan White's illustrations are FANTASTIC. Each character is clearly identifiable, the inked black and white pages are both moving and able to capture movement. Some of the best art I've personally encountered in a graphic novel in quite some time.

As to the narrative itself, Edge is the main character (he is fictional, but named after someone Brooks knew in real life). Edge like many soldiers before him is eager to get to the front lines and prove himself in battle. However, he and the rest of his battalion learn that this isn't that kind of war. Through Edge's eyes and experience Brooks takes his readers on a tour of both World War 1 trench warfare but also the experiences specific to the Harlem Hellfighters ( a name given to them by the German troops, they had others too).

Like many groups that continue to face adversity their most triumphant moments in history are often swept under the carpet of general knowledge. Brooks learned of this group of soldier via an enthusiastic college student that worked for his parents when he was younger. He carried this story with him through his whole childhood and and education and into adult hood. He tried at first to get it made into a film (and we can see where that is going to happen now, no doubt) and was told there would be no public interest in such a venture.

Edge himself is a fairly straightforward character, since he is mostly serving as a POV for the audience. There are other characters that he encounters in his story that have more flare to them. They are both fictional as well as non-fictional. We meet, for example, one of Jazz's most influential early members, James Europe.

What this book is great for is giving its reader a snapshot of something all Americans should have been learning about since it happened. It is a really quick read and you finish it feeling like you know a bit more about the world you live in. Because it is so quick and also has to pack in fact after fact it doesn't allow much room for character depth--everyone we meet is a pretty quick sketch. What we essentially get is a tour of Harlem Hellfighter life. It isn't a character driven piece (which hopefully whenever they do develop it into a movie, they will add more character depth, its potential is there). With all of the facts that Brooks has packed in a reader runs the risk over being overwhelmed, he luckily has set the narrative a such a pace that that really doesn't happen.

It is definitely worth reading and I wouldn't be surprised to see it earning a place along side Maus in terms of the educational importance of graphic novels.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Max Brooks once again proved that knows how to make a great story, April 3, 2014
This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
‘The Harlem Hellfighters’ written by Max Brooks and illustrated by Caanan White is an entertaining new book by author who marked the horror genre with his two excellent zombie books that in a different ad more intelligent way dealt with this topic.

The Harlem Hellfighters is the name the Germans gave to the 369th infantry back in the World War I and in this book Brooks is telling story about their fictional adventures that started from the boot camp to the bloody combat confrontations that have marked this worldwide conflict.

Except for the fantastic display of battles that are drawn excellent, this topic is particularly interesting because is this conflict for the first time it was possible for American commanders to be black.

The illustrations are made in black and white technique which is a good choice given book theme.

Overall, a great fictionalized account of an African American infantry unit during WWI that was made by author who once again proved that knows how to make a great story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy all the way around, May 7, 2014
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This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
Like a lot of people, I am really looking forward to a day when we can stop referring to important parts of American history as "Black" history and simply recognize that it is all "American" history. And while I'm not holding my breath, I hope that day is soon so that a book as wonderful as The Harlem Hellfighters will be read by a wide and all-inclusive audience. The book is wonderful fictionalization of an important event and people that is generally relegated to an afterthought or footnote. In that sense alone, this is an important work.

That being said, and out of the way, it is also a terrific work of historical fiction where the words and pictures work together to create a seamless and moving whole.

I have never previously read any of Brooks' work, though it has been recommended to my from time to time, but if this is any indication, I will likely be reading more in the future. This story is well-paced, involving - wrenching in many places - and his main characters live and breathe and never fall into stock ciphers or cardboard cutouts.

Which is also a reflection of the art here. The action sequences are suitably chaotic without ever becoming confusing, and the quieter moments are illuminating, as well. The details are telling and apt (a well-placed wink plays an important part in a character's development, for example) and the grim mood never becomes morose or bathetic.

I am very glad that I read a review of this (in a different forum) that pointed me to this worthy book. I hope that this review, as well as the other fine and more detailed reviews here, pique others to pick this up and be transported into an important chapter of American history. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent narrative, problematic graphics., June 2, 2014
This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
In terms of telling a story that needs to be told, and telling it effectively, this work joins the top ranks of graphic novels. It portrays both the war and the experience of the Hellfighters clearly, accurately, and realistically. This is the sort of powerful work that ought to be on high school American History reading lists, which is not to say that adults shouldn't read it as well.

But getting to the graphics...maybe my 70-year-old eyes aren't what they used to be, but my glasses are pretty new. So poor vision doesn't account for my feelings about Caanan White's illustrations. There is certainly no question about his ability to convey striking images of the grisly realities of war, and the grisly realities of racism in America at the time. But, in contrast to the opinion of another reviewer, I find it hard to distinguish the individual personalities--and sometimes hard to distinguish their race. White seems to have spent much more energy on detailed illustrations of blood and gore. The stark, often cramped black-and-white drawings create a clashing confusion on the page that makes events hard to sort out. Too much of the detail gets lost. This has nothing to do with White's skills--it's a matter of what appear to be his priorities, and the overall composition of the images. Perhaps this would have been remedied by a larger format.

All that said--read it. Twice or more. It's a great accomplishment, notwithstanding my criticisms. You won't forget it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real Americans, April 26, 2014
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This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
I have studied military history for years, including the history of WWI, with a particular interest in units from New York, but I have never heard of the 369th or their exploits. I have been a comics fan my whole life as well, so I was naturally drawn to this book. I applaud Max Brooks for bringing this important story to us in the form of a graphic novel.

Caanan White's art is beautiful and portrays the terrible reality of the, "Great War," and the poisonous racism of white Americans with an unflinching realism. The power of White's imagery and Brooks' words are a match for this fantastic story.

The Harlem Hellfighters' story screams for a big budget screen adaptation, but the graphic novel is a fitting tribute to a team of brave men who fought for freedom for themselves and for America.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great look into a little-known history., December 13, 2014
By 
This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
Take a graphic look at an unfortunately little-known piece of our history with THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS. Random House/Blogging for Books sent this to me for review and I’m glad they did. I knew about the all black regiment although I thought it was World War II (which there was one). I didn’t know about this one and I opened my eyes right up.

The story is fantastic and deftly illustrates just what these soldiers went through on the battle field and at home. They didn’t have any support from the American public, they barely had support from their own government (and that’s being generous) and yet they still maintained their will to fight for a country that wanted to hold them down. It’s truly amazing.

The illustrations are great and rather gruesome at times. The book doesn’t shy away from depicting war in all its brutality. I do wish it was colorized, through. There were some panels that were a little hard for me to interpret because the black and white blended together a little too good in some scenes. But overall that did little to detract from the story and getting the full impact of what these men went through.

It’s difficult for me to imagine just how hindered they were for no other reason than because of their skin color. There were people of all colors that supported them, of course, but it was such a sliver compared to the wider picture. The things these men volunteered to do, the feats they accomplished ahead of their white counterparts, were just truly amazing and it’s a story that everyone should know about. Talk about overcoming adversity. These guys did it in spades.

It’s a graphic novel so it’s a quick read but it’s one that’ll stick with you, both in word and image. It’ll make you want to learn more about the 369th infantry and it puts their struggle into an even greater perspective. Before the Civil Rights Movement there were these guys who wanted nothing more than to persevere when everyone wanted nothing more than to keep them down. They didn’t take no for an answer and they accomplished so much because of it. And Brooks does an excellent job of relaying that story to you. He throws you right into it, doesn’t sugar coat anything and makes you see this brutal slice of our history that so many people don’t seem to want to remember.

4
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Incredible Story, November 12, 2014
By 
This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
HARLEM HELL FIGHTERS is a historical dramatization set during World War I. It is based on the real all African American unit, the 369th Regiment.
Max Brooks, more famous for books like The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, has taken a long forgotten footnote in America’s tarnished past and given it the heroic light it more than deserves.
Mr. Brooks uses real incidents that happened to the Hell Fighters to propel the story forward with stunning results. The fact that the unit had to, in essence, steal proper weapons to train with is only one of the dozens in the story.
Mr. Brooks’ ability to tell this story is well done, but as with any story, there are things the reader may take issue with. There are more captions than dialogue for instance through out the story. I appreciate him letting us know some piece of history, but many of the panels where a caption is placed the strength artistry makes it clear.
Caanan White, an artist and inker at Marvel Comics, drew Hell Fighters in a richness I never thought I would see in a black and white comic, let alone a graphic novel. His imagery at times slaps you in the face and in others is tender. His battlefield depictions are fantastic. How he is able to convey terror, sadness, compassion, insanity, and laughter using the most basic of colors is beyond description.
A major fault with Hell Fighters is the size of it. It is only slightly larger than a paper back novel, 9 inches by six inches. The panels are tight and much of the definition, which would have come out in a larger format, is lost. The sense of movement in the trenches, on the battlefield, and the explosions are missing. You can almost see that there is more in the panel, more the artist put in, but the page size is working against him.
The abundance of black in the more emotional panels is too harsh at times, though not often, which is due to the small panels. There is not enough white space to give the eyes a chance to adjust, to get the punch the panel was meant to convey. Instead of seeing it, you have to stare and then the image becomes plain.
Above all one must remember that HARLEM HELL FIGHTERS is a novelization of true events. That many of the soldiers are fictitious or are representatives of several other real people to convey the story. Two real soldiers were James Reese Europe, known as “The King of Jazz,” and Henry Johnson, the first American soldier to receive the French Cross of War. The French Cross of War is the equivalent to America’s Distinguished Service Cross, which is one step below the Medal of Honor.
Max Brooks and Caanan White have brought to light a valiant unit that served harder and longer, received more awards, never lost any ground, and sacrificed the most for our country and the world. It is one of the best and accurate portrayals of war and the men who fight them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars “How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”, August 22, 2014
This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

In 1917 we left our home to make the world “safe for democracy.” Even though democracy wasn’t exactly “safe” back home.

We went by many names. The 15th. The 369th. And before going “over there,” we called ourselves “The Black Rattlers.” Our French allies called us “The Men of Bronze.”

And our enemies called us “The Harlem Hellfighters.”

###

Recruited in Harlem, trained in Camp Whitman, New York (and, disastrously, Spartanburg, South Carolina), and eventually deployed to the Western Front in France, the 369th Infantry Regiment – otherwise known as The Harlem Hellfighters – changed the course of history, even as its own government engineered its failure.

The 369th spent 191 days in combat – more than any other American unit, black or white. None of their men were captured by the enemy, nor did they lose any ground; in fact, they were the first men to reach the Rhine River. The 369th volunteered to stay behind in the front trenches for an expected German bombing the day after Bastille Day, 1918, even though it meant almost certain death. One of their soldiers single-handedly fended off German raiders with only a rifle and a bolo knife; for this, Henry Lincoln Johnson earned the nickname “Black Death” – and was the first American to receive the French Croix de Guerre (the Cross of War). In 2003, the US awarded Johnson the Distinguished Service Cross; his supporters are still lobbying for the Medal of Honor.

Despite the urgency of the situation – and the depth of their sacrifice – the men of the 369th (as well as other “colored” units) were consistently undermined by their own government. In training, they practiced with broomsticks, while private gun clubs received free rifles from Uncle Sam (“just in case”). Against their leader’s stringent objections, the 369th was sent to Dixie to complete its training – even though, just weeks beforehand, thirteen men from the 24th Regiment were lynched in the wake of racial conflicts in Houston, Texas. And when they finally reached France, the 369th initially performed manual labor alongside black civilian workers.

African-American soldiers also faced racism abroad: both imported, at the behest of U.S. brass, as well as from ordinary French citizens (though some of this seems tempered by their gratitude for the soldiers’ help: “While our own country didn’t want us, another country needed us.”). American policy vis-à-vis “colored” units was as much about fear as it was hatred: “They know what will happen if we return to our people as heroes!” As it turned out, the returning survivors of the 369th got the parade they were denied at the time of deployment – but they also came home in the Red Summer of 1919, only to find a country torn apart by racial violence.

The text by author Max Brooks (yes, of WORLD WAR Z fame) is wonderful – both informative and engaging – and the illustrations by Caanan White are vivid and richly detailed. Sadly, the entirety of the book is in black and white; some color, even on strategically placed pages or panels, really would have made the artwork pop. Nonetheless, White’s illustrations manage to convey the horror and desperation of war.

While writing about the origins of this graphic novel, Brooks quotes one of his college professors: “Colonization…begins with the mind, and the best (or worst) way to colonize a people is to bury their past.” With THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS, Brooks shines a light on a mostly-unknown aspect of American history.

While his decision to tell the story in graphic novel format was mostly one born of necessity (for years Brooks struggled to bring The Harlem Hellfighters to the big or small screen, to no avail), THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS introduces this chapter of history to whole new audience: comic book readers, not all of whom would read this if written as a biography or history book. (Though hopefully it will also inspire readers to do further research on their own. To that end, Brooks provides a lengthy bibliography.)
In this vein, THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS is a potentially excellent resource for high school history classes; I know that, if my teachers had given us comic books instead of chapter after chapter of dry textbook reading assignments, I would have found the materials much more engaging.

I loved the graphic novel, but am holding out hope that THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS will become a movie or miniseries yet. Get on it, TNT. After FALLING SKIES there’s nowhere to go but up.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Book review: “The Harlem Hellfighters" by Max Brooks, illustrated by Caanan White (2014), August 6, 2014
By 
A.R. Schultz (Spokane, Washington, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Harlem Hellfighters (Paperback)
Max Brooks is the author of “The Zombie Survival Guide” & “The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks,” “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War,” Dynamite’s “Raise the Dead,” and IDW’s “G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds.” He continues to further his work and interests with his latest release “The Harlem Hellfighters.” Instead of creating a traditional book depicting the unsung, heroic events of the Harlem Hellfighters, Brooks teamed up with artist Caanan White and created a standalone graphic novel that not only tells a masterful series of anecdote, but illustrates it for audiences as well.

“The Harlem Hellfighters” tells the tale of the 369th African-American Infantry Regiment during the first World War. The graphic novel opens with African-American New Yorkers being conscripted into the war effort and follows them as they progress through bootcamp into training and onto their eventual contribution to the French Army during the war. “The Harlem Hellfighters” places emphasis on the blatant racism, bigotry, and abuse that these young men suffered through along their way and throughout the war. Despite these near-debilitating setbacks, the 369th became one of the fiercest (and ultimately most-decorated) units in World War I, subsequently becoming known by the Germans as the Harlem Hellfighters.

Interestingly enough, the United States forced the Harlem Hellfighters to train with broomsticks in only several weeks worth of training (opposed to the months that white troops received); this forced the black troops to write their own government as pretend rifle associations in order to be properly supplied. At the time the United States government had a shortage of rifles because they were giving away so many of them for free to rifle associations across the United States rather than supplying their own troops. This is just one such case of obvious racism in the military during World War I.

These aforementioned examples provide a level of detail that are layered throughout the novel. Acute facts, verbiage, and historical accuracies are sprinkled throughout a rich narrative that includes real people along with amalgamations of individuals and fictional characters. This makes for a great read— Presenting historical fact and knowledge in an entertaining way. The plot is gripping (but not overbearing) and it hits close to home in the terms of current social and political struggles. The cadence of the novel can be a bit jarring at times; it seems to jump sporadically, which made it hard to follow, but taken in the context of chaos and war, the style fits the topic perfectly.

Caanan White’s artwork compliments Brooks’ plot line wonderfully— It is vividly realistic and depicts the horrors of war and racism in tandem and equality. The artwork is in black and white, which adds to the story. The lack of color harkens to a spyglass look into history. It fits more comfortably than the coloration of modern comic books. High gloss and bright colors would have detracted from the overall atmosphere of “The Harlem Hellfighters.” White’s work realistically showcases the polarity of social change, war, racism, and history. In the end, this methodology aids in the overall quality of the work presented.

“The Harlem Hellfighters” is well-worth the read. It tells a story that is oft forgot and not widely known, which on its own makes the graphic novel deserve a read through. The story is highly detailed and accurate, and even though it can jump at times it still presents an enjoyable story woven throughout a historical narrative. The artwork is phenomenal and adds so much more ‘oomph’ to an already stellar tale. I highly recommend anyone interested in war history to take a gander at “The Harlem Hellfighters.”
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The Harlem Hellfighters
The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks (Paperback - April 1, 2014)
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