There are things that come with reimagining a classic children’s tale. So much affection and nostalgia that comes along with them that changes to the canon can sometimes be met with vehement opposition. Other times, though, the changes feel as though they were right there, in your face the entire time just waiting to happen. Take for example “Peter Panzerfaust #18.” I’m not sure if I remember the part in the original Peter Pan where Peter is capable of becoming shockingly violent at the drop of a hat. But let me tell you something: it works. Also, I’m certain there wasn’t a part in the original story where Peter stops and has philosophical debates with the enemy or waxes rhapsodic about the merits of violence when needed. It is startling when it happens but man-o-man does it ever get the blood going.
Those changes, along with the format being a serialized ongoing comic book, rather than one novel, has opened up the lore of Peter Pan in a new and interesting way. Even though throughout the last seventeen issues there has been a rich amount of character development, rarely has that ever solely focused on the plight of the central protagonist. The story is mainly told through the lives of the surviving Lost Boys and many of the most emotionally resonant moments have revolved around them. This time around though, it is all about Peter. He and his captor have been alone with each other for a long time now and things are getting a bit stale. They repeat the same routine, albeit a violent one, day after day, week after week. The oddest part of that routine revolves around Pete being submerged underwater for long periods of time, only to then commiserate with his captor over a few beers.
It is this strange relationship with Emmerich that takes center stage through the whole of this issue. Even though these two sides are currently at war, it is just two men on what could be the weirdest fishing vacation since Deliverance. With any vacation, a lot of bonding is sure to happen and it is in the conversations that these two individuals share that so many new insights and new levels of understanding to both sides of the proverbial coin come to light. Over the course of twenty-four pages, both sides make their cases and even though they are fundamentally at odds, that does not mean that there are no parallels to be seen between them. I will say though, Pete is one old soul. He speaks in ways that sound like he has lived sixty lives before this one, rather than the child-like manner we are used to in previous iterations of the character.
This is not to say that the entirety of this issue is all talking. There are several fine moments of action featuring Haken (the rotten Nazi bastard) in his earlier days, revealing moments that aided in the creation of his legendary status among those who respect him most. And even if the majority of this issue is dialogue, the picturesque scenery provided by artist Tyler Jenkins and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick more than makes up for the lack of action. Even when the two are simply fishing and talking, it sure is pretty to look at; almost like a watercolor painting. I must note, however, that in the war sequences there are a few issues I noticed with the art. A few blank faces here and there, and I know I might be turning into a stickler here but why is Pete’s hair perfect both underwater and then immediately after he gets out of the water? Unless this is an inside joke, it comes off as unintentionally funny on the pure impossibility of it even happening. But even those issues and a few spotty parts after that in the water do not take away from the richness of the overall story.
As far as that goes, this issue is one that stands out to me simply because it diverts so far away from all that is happening with the rest of the group. As far as my media consumption goes, this is something that happens mostly in long form cable shows. What it felt most like to me was the episode of Boardwalk Empire where poor, sad Richard Harrow almost blows the rest of his face off in the woods. In the middle of a huge mob war, the show stopped to focus on the plight of a fan favorite character and delved into who he was as a man, not just the gun-toting warrior that he was forced to become. The exact same sentiment could be applied here to Peter. Under the light of the stars and a camp fire, we get to see just who Pete is, at the very core of his being. It is a vulnerable moment and writer Kurtis Wiebe has done a marvelous job at bringing Pete and The Lost Boys to life in ways that make you care for them, almost on a familial level. The kid might be a bit reckless and a whole lot stubborn, he is a stand-up, good guy and you can not deny that.
Sadly though, the way this issue came to a close was so sudden it felt a bit rushed. After all of what you experienced with the two men, the way they come to part felt like a disservice to the characters. But that is the ultimate point of this issue. There are two sides that are at war, but on both sides are human beings that have thoughts and opinions and lives to tell of. Sometimes, though, you get wiped away as though you never existed and history can now group you in with the rest of the villains. There is a deep sadness to that and I wish that sentiment was driven home just a little bit harder. But, everybody’s a critic, right? I guess I just feel like there was a golden opportunity to pull some heart strings. But that’s just me.
“Peter Panzerfaust #18” has a few problems with the small details in art, maybe a few hitches right at the end with the story, but overall this was a superb issue that let the readers know who Peter is in his soul. The re-invention of Peter Pan’s canon has worked on many levels in the World War II setting. The more aggressive version Peter makes for one very interesting character to follow month-to-month and it will certainly help with older kids in their teens to get on board with something that could, to them, be perceived as a lame story. As far as the narrative, stopping to tell a smaller story within the larger events is a wise choice and a welcome reprieve, as far as I’m concerned. Where things go from here, I do not know. But I am excited. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: you better get on this book and let your kids in on it, too. There’s no way this book doesn’t end up on your TV or movie screen at some point down the line. Trust me.
“Peter Panzerfaust #18” earns a solid 8/10