""... this mortal field bigger than it should be ..." - Matylda
A young Polish woman, who really loves her family, falls in love with a German officer just prior to the outbreak of World War 2 hostilities. Everyone is pretty happy, and life looks to be as bright as the stars in the night above, especially when the couple fall pregnant. With war looming on the horizon the Officer is called back to Germany to no doubt order tanks across the border into Poland. Naturally the invasion goes down, and the cockroaches of the third Reich follow the troops into the defeated Country to round up the local Jewish population. Not surprisingly the young woman is Jewish and her family are ripped apart by the SS in a sort of ethnic cleansing move that John Howard never really got the hang of; in his defence he tried as hard as he could.
As the years pass and the young woman does an Ann Franks, she starts to lose herself in the insanity of the situation. As an artist she was prone to drawing the sort of works that would have made death metal album covers, and the images from her fertile mind start to pervade her world in chilling fashion. With death breathing down her neck she attempts to flee with some half dead survivors from a concentration camp but the SS aren't finished. Read the book to find out what happens, I'm not giving anything more away over here kids.
Frank Candiloro once again throws another voyage into the dark modern fairy tale our way, as he continues to mix and match his sources to produce another unique vision. We get Candiloro's distinctive almost art deco circa German expressionist approach to the artwork. A script that delves into one of the modern World's worst nightmares in a sort of fairy tale style that does have some sort of message to deliver. And just to wrap it all up in some dark genre goodness, there's a feeling of madness and insanity pervading the pages that takes it up a hell of a notch.
Starting with the artwork, cause I'm turning into a real Candiloro fan due to the uniqueness of what you see on the page. The dude approaches the subject with his normal distinctive style that will have you devouring each page and forgetting about reading the script. So you could say you get double value for money here, firstly you can rock on with the art and spend quite some time grooving on with that part of the comic before actually getting down to the script. I was talking this one over with J, in between him dodging tornadoes and avoiding volcanic eruptions of course, and he made a very solid point I hadn't considered. Try drawing a page of six panels using pretty many straight geometric lines and not resorting to curves and other embellishments. Having problems? - Candiloro's approach here is pretty hard to pull off successfully; nature invariably doesn't operate on the straight line approach. Another aspect to the art I completely missed, due to being under the influence of various substances, was the cubist approach that Pablo would have been high fiving his drinking buddies over. J on the ball once again, due no doubt to getting all serious about reviewing book eight of The Walking Dead. Anyway, check out page six etc to see how Candiloro's approach is working like a brought one, we're taking the side angles here, my helpful hint of the day. So yeah check out the black and white angles with some grey tones setting things off amazingly well. I was happier than a young Liberal cutting down old growth forest over this aspect of the book.
Of course the meat on the bone of any comic is the script, well if we excuse those weird throw downs that attempt to twist things out of all recognition. Frank Candiloro revisits Europe in its darkest hour, touches bases with Ann Franks, and somehow intertwines a love story, a brutal denouncement of SS atrocities, and gosh the nightmare becoming a reality. The only way Candiloro could have improved on this story would have been by the inclusion of Nazi Werewolves or making it all turn out to be something of a prophetic nightmare by the narrator. I was settling into the plot line the Author has going down here, and then Candiloro took it in completely different directions to what I was expected. Frank Candiloro paws over the corpse of his script and then rips it into shreds, before reassembling things like Dr Frankenstein running a sewing class for serial killers. I'm not about to give too much away here, the sum of the parts being pretty solid, but expect a read that isn't going to give you a bunch of force feed mush. I was digging numerous aspects of the script here, but can't really focus on any single aspect without giving away the dreaded spoilers. Take it from me, there's a bunch of sub plots going down here that will keep you glued to the page, and pretty much bright eyed and bushy tailed.
Okay so you just knew I would have to pick the scab a bit more and invest some time in a certain aspect of the story, I can't help myself, I will seek professional help in due course. Frank Candiloro resurrects Ann Franks in a striking central character that really works for the themes being developed. On the bright side of the swastika, it also introduces the dark genre elements that lift this comic above what could be yet another retelling of WW2 German atrocities. The narrator, who kind of reminded me of a 1930s version of that next door neighbour chick Faith from Wes Craven's Deadly Blessings, is all about family. She might have a dark edge to her world, but simply is all over hearth and home, so it's really raining on her parade when the SS decide to destroy the wine and roses lifestyle she has going down. Unable to cope with the insanity of what is happening to her world, the Narrator Matylda retreats into her disturbing imaginary world with Death going all Final Destination being an added bonus. I'm not giving anymore away, but we have Ann Franks gearing up to go Dexter on us, outstanding!
So guess I should mention this book is more about emotion and atmosphere than some super-hero battling Nazis while wearing his Reg Grundies on the outside. While the movie can be pretty nihilistic, and I got to say the depression label could be stamped on the book cover, there's a sort of uplifting epilogue that should lift your gloom. If after Captain America, then get the fuck out now, and don't talk to me, you aren't even going to get Aquaman in this one. Actually thinking about it, Aquaman versus Nazi Werewolves, now how cool would that be! Anywise, and before this review blows and tire and flicks over the boundary fence, Behind the Crooked Cross is one serious book more aimed for an adult audience than the cola swilling teen, and there you have a challenge kids.
Technically you are getting a book in U.S comic format, black and white panels throughout, wrapped in 56 pages of mayhem. I read the electronic version so have zero idea on the physical comic, roll the dice there, not getting a lot of complaints about Franken Comics publications. Did I mention the price tag is a very reasonable $8? If wanting to grab yourself a copy of the book then check out the page at Frank Candiloro's official site.
I had a real good time with Behind the Crooked Cross, even without Nazi Werewolves, and have zero issues with giving the book a full recommendation to anyone reading. While I dig the action comics a lot, I also have time for books that take it a bit more seriously and aim to be more than simply rainy Saturday afternoon fodder. Grab yourself a glass of merlot and settle in for this one, you sure are going to be having a good time.