Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 144 pages, $19.99
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Major Impossible
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 126 pages, $13.99
In 2012, Nathan Hale, the graphic novelist not the dead patriot, began a series called Hazardous Tales, starting with his namesake. Since then, he has released nine volumes, with the tenth due in the fall.
The series spans the years and focuses on the familiar and unfamiliar names throughout American history. In each case, a trio of spectral figures act as narrator, Greek chorus, and the print equivalent of Statler and Waldorf. We have Hale the colonial hung as a spy, his masked hangman, and a British red coat. In each case, they take the middle ages reader through the story. Hey pause to explain historic figures, details, debunk urban legends, and much more. As a result, they are entertaining and informative in the best sense of both words.
2016’s volume six, Alamo All-Stars, has been turned into a larger-sized new edition with sixteen additional pages tucked in the back. These include photos of artifacts, the real people depicted, and other artifacts along with mini-comics featuring the history the Alamo cat. There’s even a section devoted to Phi Collins and his donating his Alamo memorabilia to the fort.
What most know about the Alamo is the rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo!”, and legendary figures Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett were present. After that, things get fuzzy, but here Hale walks us through all the players, the shifting alliances, and the eventual establishment of Texas as a state. It was nice seeing a different take on Juan Sequin, the focus of Jack Jackson’s wonderful Los Tejanos graphic novel.
There are frequent pauses for the ghostly trio to provide commentary, sort out rumor from fact, and help us keep track of the various Mexican leaders. I’m not sure how the intended audience will find the book, but I certainly learned a lot from it.
The more recent release gives us something far lesser known. Nicknamed Major Impossible, we are treated to the story of John Wesley Powell, a one-armed explorer who organized an expedition to explore the Green and Colorado rivers by boat, traveling from Wyoming through Utah and the Grand Canyon region of Arizona. The trip had never been done by Americans, well white Americans, and was a harrowing experience for the ten men who set out shortly after the Civil War, to continue mapping the American west.
Again, he carefully takes us through their trials and tribulations, keeping track day by day. There are disastrous choices made, difficult decisions to make, and the unknown around every bend of the rocky terrain. I knew none of this and was interested enough to finish it, thanks to the lively writing and drawing.
Each volume is well-illustrated and presented in muted colors, giving a nostalgic feel to them, and setting one apart from the other. In every case, Hale shows his research cleverly hosted by the Research Babies.
These are recommended from fourth grade up and will make useful tools well into middle school.