A 175 page book about an obscure American/Canadian war from the 19th century may not sound like an obvious choice for a comic book adventure, but thanks to the intelligent writing of 2000ad legend Alan Grant and the sublime artwork of Canadian illustrator Claude St. Aubin, The Loxleys and The War of 1812 from Renegade Arts Entertainment is an enlightening and informative look at the futility of war and the effect it has on family life, that is as relevant today as it was back then.Based around the 1812 Canadian/American war we are introduced to Canadian farming family the Loxleys who’s idyllic lives are changed forever as a result of the land hungry American governments who were looking to impose rule on the whole of north American in order to aid their war with the British. With much of Europe at war with each other at the time this is a story that is not well known outside of Canada and North America, but because of it’s relatively small scale the story that Grant tells is much more effective as he does not get bogged down in having to explain the complex political machinations of the time and can focus on the tale of the Loxleys themselves.
Although not based on an actual family (rather an amalgam of several families) the fictional story is told using diaries and letters to give personal insights into the characters lives. The story follows father Aaron and son Matthew as they go off to join the militia and fight alongside the native Americans who are also looking to expel the invaders, while son in law Pierre goes off to join the French Canadian troops. We also see the effect the absent men have on the women and the younger members of the family who stay behind to look after the farm and family and their involvement with raiders and disgruntled natives as they themselves have to also fight, this time for survival.
By focusing on the minutiae of family life Grant really highlights how war affects people in a multitude ways, and parallels could be made with any family who’s lives are impacted by involvement in a futile war. Fortunately his tone of writing is never heavy handed or preachy and so makes for a well considered balanced story where the nobility of a man fighting for his country and family is juxtaposed with the effects it has on family life.
This smart writing from Grant is perfectly augmented by the classy artwork of Claude St Aubin. His fine line work and simple yet detailed style makes the book feel very European, and helps it feel much more than just a slightly twee cartoon history book. His style is dynamic and fun but with an expert draftsman’s eye for the grand buildings which gives the work an epic feel (especially on the full page splash of the capitol building in flames). As this latter example proves, he is not all about happy smiley caricatures and the art does feature some shocking scenes, which are handled subtly and well. The artwork is further aided by clever use of colour from Lovern Kindzierski who captures the passing colours of the seasons of the Canadian wilderness sublimely while still managing to give a sense of grimness to the horrors of the battlefield without relying on grit and grime to get the point across.
Based on true life events (although a real family) the reading experience of the The Loxleys is further benefitted by historical analysis at the back of the book from Canadian historian Mike Zuehlke who outlines the politics of the time, which Grant only really hints at. This gives the book some added gravitas and some excellent historical context which helps to really bring home the futility of the conflict which is affecting our family.
The Loxleys and the War of 1812 is available as a deluxe hardcover book for $19.99 from Renegade Arts’ website and also as a digital download via the Renegade Arts app on iTunes for just $9.99 (or as a 20 page sampler available for 99¢)