One of the things I love most about Peter Panzerfaust is the framing device of the arcs from the point of view of the surviving Lost Boys. With each member our audience surrogate, John Parsons, gets a slightly different image of the war and of the book’s eponymous character. Tootles introduced us to the larger-than-life Peter in the midst of war while showing the transition of a group of scared boys into warriors under the tutelage of their mysterious savior. Julien further expanded on the mythos with the addition of SS Kapitan Haken and the Braves, taking the rivalry between “The Hook” and Peter to mythic proportions while finding a kindred spirit in Tiger Lily. The current arc, however, told from Felix’s point of view is less concerned with myth and legend, bringing Parsons and the audience down to the harsh reality of war.
With their refuge in the Sticks under fire from Haken’s Hunters, Peter and the Lost Boys are more concerned with saving their friends still inside than paying attention to the increasingly suspicious behavior of Jacques, one of the Braves and right-hand man of the now deceased Big Chief, as he tries to get Monnier, a valuable member of the resistance, to a safe house about as far out in the French countryside as you can get. Felix, the only one who seems to have taken note of Jacques’ odd behavior and the series of unfortunate events leading up to the attack on their home, decides to tag along. Leaving his friends to fend off the Hunters, he follows his instincts and confronts Jacques.
It’s an intense sequence, one that’s made all the more intense by Jacques’ reaction to Felix’s accusations. It’s also a brilliant turn in the narrative with Kurtis J. Wiebe adding a layer of espionage to this war story. Felix’s suspicions are well founded, but we don’t really know Jacques’ side of the story since he’s not our narrator. His tirade about fighting in “The Great War,” the sacrifices he’s made, and the atrocities he’s witnessed long before Felix was ever born make him more sympathetic. Jacques, from the beginning of the arc, has also been empathetic to Felix’s desire to prove himself after his capture and torture, giving the two characters enough history that Felix believes Jacques and accompanies him the rest of the way to the safe house. But as with all spy tales, there’s always a twist, and this one is a doozy as Jacques delivers Felix and Monnier right back into the hands (or hand) of Haken and reveals his true identity. If you’re a fan of how Wiebe has been incorporating the characters of J.M. Barrie’s story into this book, then you’ll be bowled over with excitement with this particular reveal. And that’s not even the end of the issue! No, no, Wiebe really does save the best of Pan lore for the final pages.
As I said before, the framing device provides a fantastic way for Wiebe to expand upon the story from both the past and the present. Felix is less concerned with romanticism, giving Parsons his perspective but doing so in a way that shows the toll war has taken on him and how it continues to haunt him. While Tootles and Julien experienced loss and tragedy, Felix is the Lost Boy with the most reason to look at life with bitter resentment. Wiebe has woven dueling parallel stories to coincide with Peter via Haken and Felix. Haken continues to play the game, testing and challenging Peter like the war is their own personal chessboard. Felix, on the other hand, just wants the game to end. Though he’s a cunning warrior and strategist, Felix, unlike Peter, looks at death not as another adventure but as a way to find peace. Unfortunately, as he relays to Parsons, Felix is one of those men “cursed to live.” Felix reminds me a great deal of Audie Murphy, the soldier who continues to survive when others die and questions why he’s still alive. If you’ve never seen To Hell and Back, do yourself a favor and watch it because it’s quite possibly one of the best Word War II films told from the perspective of an individual soldier.
Tyler Jenkins and Heather Breckel continue to work their magic on the art and colors respectively. Jenkins is all about movement within and between panels, making the story and the action flow with ease. He also creates a sense of foreboding in the quiet moments as Jacques drives Felix and Monnier to the “safe house”. No dialogue, just panels pulling back to reveal the emptiness of the snow-covered landscape with the occasional close-up of a worried and anxious Felix as the car continues to drive him farther and farther away from his friends who, for all he knows, could be dead. Breckel keeps the colors relatively subdued during the story proper, washing the panels in browns and purples not even the onset of daylight can completely destroy. It makes the contrast of older Felix and John all the more jarring when the two are out in the brightly colored garden with striking blues and greens, creating a distinct separation between past and present.
Final Thoughts: You hear that…? Tick tock, tick tock…sounds like Issue 15 is on its way.