Family history can be a fascinating thing, a fact that Chris Schweizer takes full advantage of in his series about the Crogan family and its adventures. In this third installment, Crogan’s Loyalty, the setting is the Revolutionary War. Schweizer starts off his tale much like he did in his previous two volumes, Crogan’s Vengeance and Crogan’s March, where we see the modern-day Crogan family in a typical situation. This time, they’re off to a funeral where Dad may have to confront his estranged brother. When the two Crogan sons don’t understand the situation, Dad once again has ready a story of the family’s past, about two brothers who find themselves on opposite sides of the American war for independence.
It’s always a pleasure to see the amount of detail Schweizer brings to his historical tales. As quickly as page four it’s explained that the British weren’t necessarily the bad guys, that the situation was far more complex than that. It’s this complexity that drives the tale and provides the motivations for the two brothers: Charlie, the loyalist soldier, and Will, the patriot scout for the rebels. The two cross paths somewhere in the forests of Appalachia. While each jumps to fight the other, they soon end up laughing together and grudgingly put their differences aside for the time being.
Soon, Charlie is a dinner guest of a family of Bess, the girl Will is courting. In their dinner conversation, Schweizer cleverly introduces the reasoning behind each brother’s attitude for the conflict, even though the family patriarch has said there should be no political discussion. The dialog here not only sounds completely natural coming from both brothers, but also takes on the idioms and usages of the time. It’s nothing that wouldn’t be understandable to the average middle school reader, but at the same time gives a wonderful feel for the period, such as Will stating early on in the dinner that “Politics have nothing to do with it,” using the plural for something that is referred to as a single thing today.
This attention to detail runs through the whole book, where attitudes both about and by Native Americans shows more complexity than usual and the alliance of the German Hessian troops by the loyalists is highlighted rather than ignored, like in many textbooks. Charlie himself is attached to a Hessian platoon that uses him as a scout, since he knows the area, and the conflict between familial duties and that of his cause move the book to its wonderful climax.
Schweizer’s artwork is appealing to look at, with a loose, cartoonish style for his figures, which are often exaggerated for comedic effect as well as to show inner qualities. He draws them against a slightly more realistic-seeming background, with detailed depictions of the mountain and forest environments that make up most of the scenes. Yet the effect is never jumbled nor hard to read, as Schweizer’s excellent and confident use of spot blacks help draw the eye and emphasize what a reader needs to see. There are few artists, especially working in a similar style, that have such an ability to make their art so comprehensible without the aid of color.
Overall, Crogan’s Loyalty not only holds its own alongside the rest of the Crogan series, but is the best so far. There is plenty of action to move the book along, as well as utterly believable characterization and motivations. While there is a level of violence, it is only in service of the story and never crosses the line into gratuitous, showing no blood and no gore. It would be a perfect addition to any young adult shelf, and libraries should have no hesitation in adding it to their collection. Lovers of adventure stories will eat it up, and unknowingly absorb a little bit of American history that often gets overlooked about the Revolutionary War.
Crogan’s Loyalty: Crogan’s Adventures, book 3
by Chris Schweizer
Oni Press, 2012