I’m back from C2E2, and so far have been negative on all my Covid-19 tests (wear your masks and get vaccinated, people), so I’m ready to dive into what I do best (or at least what I do most frequently) and review great indie comics you might not have heard of.
This week you’re in for something special. I’ll be reflecting back on He Who Fights With Monsters which is releasing this week in trade form from Ablaze Publishing. This work is written by Francesco Artibani with art by Werther Dell’Edera, and is, in my opinion, one of the best books of the year.
Here’s the blurb:
On All Hallows’ Eve, a community struggles under the boot of the Nazi war machine when supernatural forces come to play a part in the conflict! From the artist of the bestselling Something is Killing the Children comes a Halloween tale that will send shivers up your spine…
It’s World War 2 and the struggle between good and evil is in full force. In Prague, the great Bohemian city is being oppressed by the Nazi occupation and the population lives in terror, while the resistance forces try to organize themselves in the shadows. It is an almost impossible task. With the ruthless SS tightening their grip on every street and neighborhood with overwhelming might, only one hope feeds the struggle. A crazy hope, which rests on the fragile foundations of an ancient, monstrous legend…
I’m not sure what it is about WWII that makes it such a perfect vehicle for stories like He Who Fights With Monsters. Perhaps it’s the untold human suffering, the complete and utter despair, the cruelty and brutality of it all, but something about that war makes stories like this, stories of the supernatural and impossible, just seem so much more believable.
He Who Fights With Monsters follows a group of victims of the Nazi occupation of Bohemia. Pushed to the brink, and with no hope of defeating their far better equipped occupiers, our Jewish heroes attempt a desperate, and seemingly insane plan: revive a golem.
If you’re not familiar with golem, they are basically a living creature of stone, given life by mystical words placed in their mouths, and who follow the commands of those who create them.
Despite the fact that no one believes this is possible, our heroes manage to bring the golem to life, and immediately set him against the Nazi menace, hoping that this creature will help them stem the tide against their invaders. I won’t spoil the ending, but the story takes a lot of twists and turns here that you won’t see coming, and that’s a good thing.
When I first picked up He Who Fights With Monsters, I thought it might be a cool action story about a monster killing Nazis, because let’s be honest, there’s nothing better sometimes than a story like that; I’ve also been watching Indiana Jones a lot recently so that might have been in my head as well.
But there is a lot more going on here than a monster movie revenge fantasy. The golem isn’t just some mindless killer; he’s an outsider to humanity who has been used again and again to defend a group of persecuted people, and at a certain point that is going to have some pretty severe impacts on his perceptions of the world and of humanity itself. There is a lot of really deep meditation on the human condition in this book, and in a world where we can see cycles of violence and prejudice repeating again and again, I think a book like He Who Fights With Monsters is incredibly important for people to read and reflect on.
Yes, it’s a fun monster book where you get to see Nazis being defeated again and again, but that’s the backdrop, not the point. He Who Fights With Monsters is about humanity, and how we have, and in many ways how we continue to treat each other to this day.
He Who Fights with Monsters is beautifully illustrated by Dell’Edera, whose style is perfect for a story like this. The harsh, bold lines of his art give a severity to the work that it needs for such a subject, and the color palette, something that I don’t mention as often as I should, is pitch perfect for this story. It’s just a good looking book altogether, and that’s no surprise considering Dell’Edera’s history in comics.
If you missed He Who Fights With Monsters the first time it hit the shelf, do yourself a favor and snag the trade when it arrives next week. It’s a great read crafted by some talented creators, and might just help you look at things a bit differently.
Until next time, Stay Safe.