Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, And Blood

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood cover

The latest in the series of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, an impressively funny and educational history comic series, covers an immense topic: World War I and its Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood.

Nathan Hale sets out to tell the story of “the war to end all wars”, but the earthy Hangman gets bored early and demands “cute little animals” to make it more interesting. Thus, the book symbolizes each country of Europe in 1914 with some kind of beast wearing a hat: Russia’s a bear, Germany an eagle, France a rooster, England a bulldog, and America a bunny (since the eagle was already taken, and they avoided the war for so long). I was reminded of Hetalia here, although that book doesn’t use animals, and Hale’s book is more concerned with history than goofiness.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood cover

As Hale tells it, nationalism and militarism lead to various mobilizations and conflicts. The numbers are overwhelming, too many to comprehend during the first section of the book, which portrays key battles. The second half of the book delves more into the technological changes, from trench warfare to poison gas, u-boats and bomber planes, to the introduction of the tank. American isolationism is also covered.

I really appreciate Nathan Hale’s (the author, not the character, although that applies too) ability to streamline complicated historical events in such readable fashion. There is a LOT of information here, but the book stays entertaining as the narrators spat and joke. There are also impressive markers, as each year is symbolized by increasingly demented full-page images of Ares dining on the many victims. The characters even reflect on them, as the Hangman says, “Holy mackerel! Greek gods, weird statues, animals in armor — this scene is completely batty!” while Hale calmly responds, “The causes of World War One are complicated.”

The book ends with Hale’s “research babies” revolting against ever covering an entire war again. I hope there’s another book, and I’m eager to find out what he’ll cover next. This is a terrific series for anyone of any age who’s curious about history. Find out more at the author’s blog. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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