When I first started reading Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, there were only six; I finished the 6th one the other night, however, and was overjoyed to see that the next one has a title and a release date. (It’s called Raid of No Return, about the Doolittle raid, and it’s coming in November–wahoo!) Tonight, however, I get to focus on Alamo All-Stars, and I have to say–how does Nathan Hale do it? How does he take a tragic piece of history–Texas LOST at the Alamo, and PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE DIED–and turn it into an appealing, amusing, entertaining, and yet historically accurate graphic novel? I assumed I wouldn’t like this one as much as its predecessors, because an older biography of Davy Crockett that I read painted a fairly damning portrait of the Alamo, one of hubris and defiance of direct orders. I came away from it feeling like it was a case of testosterone triumphing over common sense, when in reality nothing was as clear cut as all that. Texas wasn’t a part of the U.S. at the time, its leadership wasn’t firmly settled into a chain of command, and by the time the Alamo defenders knew they were doomed, surrender and retreat wasn’t a terribly viable option. Hence–doomed. (Although women, children, and slaves–interestingly–were spared. Since Texas history isn’t actually a thing in Rhode Island elementary schools, I had no idea.)
The doom notwithstanding, Hale manages to focus on, not the trivial, but the long term struggle for Texan independence and the bigger picture of that struggle. Nathan Hale the spy has a Mexican counterpart who was swallowed up by El Gran Libro Enorme de la Historia Mexicana and is also telling stories from his country’s history to delay his execution. (He comes with a three man firing squad, who immediately bond with the Hangman.) The Mexican viewpoint provides the perfect counterpoint, perspective-wise. Alamo All-Stars manages to focus on the Alamo while telling the story of Texan independence, and it does it with both humor and respect–all while hitting a home run on behalf of reluctant readers everywhere.
Don’t miss this one.