In the latest of his Hazardous Tales (One Dead Spy, 2012, etc.), Hale recaps World War I with an all-animal cast.
Any similarities to Art Spiegelman’s Maus are doubtless coincidental. Per established series formula, a frame tale finds the author’s more-renowned namesake holding off the hangman, Scheherazade-like, with tales from our country’s future history. In this volume, he covers the war’s prelude, precipitation, major campaigns and final winding down in small but reasonably easy-to-follow two-color panels. At the hangman’s request, narrator Hale both tucks in a few jokes and transforms the opposing armies into animal-headed soldiers—from Gallic roosters and British bulldogs to, as “eagle” was already taken by the Germans, American bunnies. Despite lightening the load in this manner and shying away from explicit brutality, Hale cogently conveys the mind-numbing scale of it all as well as the horrors of trench warfare. He presents with equal ease the strategic and tactical pictures, technological innovations from poison gas to tanks, and related developments such as the Russian Revolution. After the cease fire, which he attributes more to exhaustion than battlefield victory, he closes with a summary of the war’s human toll and geopolitical changes.
A neatly coherent account with tweaks that allow readers some emotional distance—but not enough to shrug off the war’s devastating cost and world-changing effects. (bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 11-13)