REVIEW: The Jewish Brigade (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Marvano

When most learn about history, one gets a watered-down version of it, usually in a classroom setting. One where the “good guys” always win, ride off into the sunset, credits roll and everyone goes home. It’s as if the very day after the war ended everyone is linking arms and singing kumbaya around a campfire, best friends forever. Truth is, for many situations and especially wars, nothing is ever wrapped up in a tight little bow like that. This is the kind of climate that exists within the pages of The Jewish Brigade, the new graphic novel by Dead Reckoning and US Naval Institute Press.

What most people don’t realize, in regards to World War II (as with today’s story), for many years Europe was destabilized, retaliatory killings happened frequently, and old enemies kept at peace by fascist governments were once again at each others throats. True reconciliation never really came for may reasons. Perhaps the most jarring thing was that war atrocities were overlooked due to political maneuvering. As the author, Marvano, puts it, “Because you know as well as I do that what matters to the Western Bloc now is the Red Scare. Plenty of allies are ready to march against the Russians, shoulder to shoulder with the Germans preferably.”

In The Jewish Brigade, War is over in Europe, or so they say. The last bullets have been fired in Italy pushing the Germans into self survival mode. Most are trying to lay low, others are trying to flee the country, But there are some that don’t want that to happen. The Jewish Brigade tells the story of the remnants of a short lived Jewish war battalion within the British army finding a new place in a new world where just maybe they will have a fighting chance. Whether it be hunting down and executing Nazis trying to hide in plain sight, or liberating their own people from camps that only want to go home, sadly finding that they are still not welcome in many cases.

“In the waning years of World War II, as the tragic plight of the European Jews was coming to light in ever more horrific detail, a Jewish fighting force, known as the Jewish Infantry Brigade Group, was born as part of the British Eighth Army. Leslie Toliver, a racecar driver in the pre-war years, eagerly joined the all-volunteer force for a chance to fight with his people against those who sought to murder them. When the war in Europe ends and the “savage continent” sits on the brink of continental civil war from chaos, terror, and famine, Leslie and the Brigade move to Tarvisio, Italy, a border triangle city perfect for covert action. While out searching for Holocaust survivors, Leslie undertakes vigilante missions in Soviet occupied Eastern Europe hunting down Nazis on the run for both vengeance and justice. With each Nazi found or refugee rescued, he looks for more information to complete his most personal mission: to find his mother and fiancée who went missing in the upheaval of the war.”

I enjoyed this book a LOT due to it focusing on one of these untold periods in history that are somewhat shameful, meaning it gets largely ignored and whitewashed. While I knew many of the concentration camp survivors would up dying after the fact, I had no idea that Nazi vigilantes targeted thee people as they tried to make it home. Scenes like that were jarring and extremely disturbing considering the heroic sheen we put on the end of the war over here. Many of these people were trying their hardest to flee Europe and make their way to Palestine, only to be denied by British red tape. One can tell that anti-Semitism was rampant everywhere, not just Nazi Germany – most were inclined to keep Jews in the very camps that they were wholesale murdered in, just with a different sign on the door, and the ability to not die upon arrival. Understanding this, the fact that most Jews were seemingly “not wanted” by anyone, goes to show the mindset of many Israelites today – This book actually helped me to put that puzzle piece together as to why some Israeli Nationalists act the way they do in the realm of Geopolitics.

The later portion of the book takes place right before The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, wherein an Arab coalition attempted to thwart the establishment of the Nation of Israel in what was then called Palestine. The book does not dwell on this setting, for the most part, and I wonder if there will ever be a volume two. Leslie Toliver is an interesting character in many ways. While not “noticeably Jewish” as some put it in the book, members of his family were definitely deemed “Jewish Enough” for the gas chambers, so he acts in revenge for his fallen family, comrades, and people. A former racecar driver, the glasses wearing redhead seems more at home working behind a desk, versus his life as a Nazi Hunter. Flanked by an interesting cast of spies, refugees, Disillusioned Nazis and British military officers, It was a refreshing cast of characters for sure.

Perhaps one of my only issues with this book is that it jumps in time a few times, so we really don’t get to see some of the side-characters very much. I would have loved to see some other missions before and after the ones we’ve seen, perhaps even the stuff from the handful of flashbacks. Characters like the man that I assumed was the principal villain, are no longer a factor after issue one, nor are other antagonists like the costumed vigilantes we see executing fleeing Jews. That isn’t to say the book is incomplete, I just enjoyed what we got so much, I want more of it.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and plan to seek more by Marvano – the script and art are both top-notch and the plot is especially great. As I have stated before, Dead Reckoning is perhaps my favorite publisher for Military-inspired comics, and they always seem to choose the best quality projects to back. This book makes me want to look for a prose book on postwar Europe to educate myself on some of the issues that went on after the war supposedly ended. I will confess that World War II history is not my strong suit, so this has really opened my eyes.

If you would like a copy of this book for yourself, please look HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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