Advanced Review: Peter Panzerfaust #1 from Image ComicsBy Andrew Leslie
Posted on January 10, 2012
At what point are things so desperate in your life that you’ll follow a madman’s lead? Admiral William Frederick Halsey Jr. famously said that, “There are no extraordinary men…just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” If that’s the case, then following a clearly unhinged kid through a heated WWII battle during one of history’s most infamous genocidal rampages could be considered extraordinary circumstances. That would also be the exact premise for Peter Panzerfaust from Image Comics.
Peter Panzerfaust, written by Kurtis Wiebe (of Green Wake fame) and art by Tyler Jenkins, could easily be summarized to a friend as “Nazi’s vs the Lost Boys” or “Peter Pan set in WWII,” but it is much more than just a gimmicky retelling. Issue #1 is told from the perspective of Tootles, one of the Lost Boys. He was an orphan whose orphanage was abandoned during the war and left without hope as to whether or not they’d survive. Enter Peter Panzerfaust, a kid hell bent on traversing Europe in search of a loved one. He leads the boys out of the orphanage and into … well “safety” isn’t really quite the right word to describe it, but somewhere arguably safer at least. The Lost Boys watch Peter accomplish things many would think are impossible and have to decide whether or not they’ll follow his lead.
Wiebe’s storytelling here is whimsical, but also gritty – a very perplexing combination. As the children are stuck in the middle of WWII they are surrounded by death and destruction. They see people gunned down in the street and feel powerless to do anything about it. That’s the gritty. What adds a sense of whimsy to the entire thing is Peter Panzerfaust’s childlike wonder about the entire situation. He runs recklessly headstrong into dire situations with the kind of temerity that would make Admiral Halsey rethink his quotable quote. The combination of the two juxtaposed elements pulls the reader right into the world of Panzerfaust. Aside from all that literary BS, the character of Peter Panzerfaust is just freakin’ awesome. The kid takes on Nazi’s like he’s playing Battlefield 3, plus he’s clearly got charisma to spare so it makes him nearly impossible not to follow. Not only that, but he’s got all the hallmarks of a great Pan – he can fly, he can fight and he can CROW!
Tyler Jenkins is on art for this issue (and hopefully for the foreseeable future) and walks the whimsical/gritty line that Wiebe sets up perfectly. He gives Panzerfaust the look of a young, brash soldier with the wild hair and lanky limbs. At first glance the character might play the geek or a nerd, or even the sidekick in another comic book, but when Jenkins puts Panzerfaust in action, you see that he’s the star of this show. There’s a one-page panel that will really strike a chord in the cockles of your heart (if you have a soul) of Peter jumping. It’s just him jumping – no explosions or anthropomorphized bunnies – just one kid leaping from a rooftop. The simplicity of the panel is its genius as there’s so much subtext and buildup prior to that moment that letting it speak for itself as plainly as possible creates a much stronger effect than having a busy background and a jumble of thought bubbles.
So is Peter Panzefaust officially freakin’ awesome? No. He’s a freakin’ madman, but the kind you can believe in and the kind you would follow through extraordinary circumstances. Peter Panzerfaust isn’t even out yet, but it will be in February so email or call your local comic shop and tell them to pre-order it. You’ll probably have to spell it out for them.