In J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, the Boy Who Never Grew Up is constantly locked in battle with his arch-nemesis, Captain James Hook. Peter is the trickster child reveling in games and hijinks at the expense of the adult pirate while Hook dedicates his time and energy into destroying the one person in Neverland clever enough to thwart him and prevent him from having complete power. Barrie’s original premise, however, has expanded beyond the characters he created. What started as a play about the wonder of childhood and imagination in the face of adulthood and maturation has grown into a philosophical war between a man and a boy seeking adventure and eternal glory. Every adaptation of Peter Pan pushes the rivalry between Hook and Peter further and further, exploring them as characters through their differences and similarities. Peter Panzerfaust, in similar fashion, goes deeper, taking Hook and Peter’s personal war to a new level as Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins dive into the purpose and meaning of a man’s legacy.
Given the introduction, it’s only fitting that we check in with our titular character for this issue. After being captured by Kapitan Haken’s Hunters in order to save the lives of his friends, Peter has remained in the captivity of Emmerich who’s been keeping Peter relatively guarded at a woodland cabin by a serene lake for the last fours months. The two appear to spend the days playing chess while Emmerich regales Peter with stories of his time during WWI as part of Haken’s, or The Hook’s, band of soldiers. Peter, however, is anything but the model prisoner. He continually tries to escape and each time he makes the attempt, he’s recaptured and punished by being nearly drowned at the bottom of the lake. If not for the pesky business of being on opposite sides of the war, the two men actually seem to get along, if not like each other. A surprise visit, however, ends Peter’s captivity and resumes the hunt once again.
Emmerich’s agenda is pretty clear-cut: Peter and Haken are more alike than Peter wants to believe. While Wiebe previously touched on the subject during Haken and Peter’s first encounter, here he shows what the consequences of their great game has on those around them. In his stories, Emmerich, waxes poetic about the romanticism of war as Peter saw it through his father’s eyes. Young Peter created a hero out of his father, someone to look up to, someone to emulate when he had the chance during a war of his own. In turn, Peter’s approach to war brought him to the Lost Boys who watched as a brash, young American led them out of hell and gave them a reason to fight. His daring feats, the risks he took to keep them safe, the victories earned, planted the seeds of his legacy. And the same story applies to Haken. He similarly crafted a reputation amongst the men who followed him. A reputation that became a legend, which turned into a legacy. For Haken, that legacy is proof of immortality. Peter, however, doesn’t see his legacy as something built on the bodies of the dead. Peter’s legacy is in the survival of his friends, of the people he loves. He’d rather die in another’s place than watch them die for him. Strangely enough, in playing the self-sacrificing hero, Peter only adds to the immortal nature of his story. It’s what has John Parsons questioning his friends decades later. He’s piecing together Peter’s legacy through the people who lived. And yet Peter isn’t above letting someone else find a measure of immortality, even if it’s only a small remembrance.
The timeless quality of Barrie’s characters continues to allow Wiebe and Jenkins to seamlessly incorporate them into the chaotic setting of WWII. There’s even a beautiful reference to the mermaids of Neverland that still manages to fit. For all of the romanticism Emmerich talks about in regards to the first Great War, WWII has always had the veneer of glory and righteousness, which gives Hook and Peter’s rivalry plenty of room to take on more meaning within the context of war. The battlefield is were legends are made, where history is written, and the two men are forging greater legends the longer they remain at each others’ throats. Though Haken only appears in the opening flashback, his presence is felt throughout the issue. Emmerich’s constant goading of Peter, pushing him to see his actions as the same that created Haken, is perfectly captured through the feigned serenity of Emmerich and Peter fishing. Like the crows in the previous issue, Emmerich’s words are the bait and Peter, despite fighting against the comparison, bites. He may have the moral high ground for the time being, but even Peter recognizes the sliver of truth.
Rating – 10/10
Final Thoughts: The hunt continues.