Imagine Peter Pan. Now imagine Peter Pan, but instead of a elfish boy in a bright green tunic, imagine an American boy in World War Two France who carries a rifle and grenades and saves a bunch of orphans, who will become his Lost Boys, from a recently-bombed orphanage. That’s Peter Panzerfaust.
The story of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys is nothing new, but Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins mix the old with a new setting in Peter Panzerfaust. The first issue of this new series is fast-paced and intense, with a charm that most other books don’t have. It’s lacking in a few places, but the parts where it succeeds are enough to overcome it.
The story is told through the memories of Tootles, one of the Lost Boys. He’s doing an interview with an unnamed person, and the first-person perspective puts an interesting spin on the story. Peter is a character who seems almost like a superhero to his followers. Much like the way Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Rant is told, the first-person perspective highlights it and creates a sense of awe around the character. It’s the strongest part of Wiebe’s writing in this first issue.
Peter himself is the most intriguing part of the story. He’s just as light-hearted as he is in the Disney adaptation, but there’s also a hint of mental instability. In a setting as bleak as WWII, his personality stands out. He laughs after he gets thrown to the wall by a tank blast, and he appears smiling out of nowhere after a bomb destroys the orphanage the Lost Boys have been living in. If Wiebe continues to develop that aspect of his character, it could make for one of the most interesting takes on the character ever, and one of the best characters in comics.
Jenkins’ art mimics the way Wiebe’s writing makes Peter stand out. He’s drawn bigger, and his colors are brighter than the rest of the characters. His expressions and movements are also exaggerated, while the other characters’ are not.
While Peter stands out in both the writing and the art, the rest of the Boys don’t in either, and it’s the books biggest flaw. Other than their hairstyles, the boys are indistinguishable from each other. It’s possible that Wiebe just didn’t have space in this first issue to develop them as characters, but it’ll benefit the story if they get more depth in the coming issues, since not even Tootles, the one who tells the story, is very interesting at this point.
There also isn’t much of a concrete idea of what the plot is going to be, at least so far. We find out Peter is looking for a girl named Belle, but we don’t get much more than that. The first issue basically just introduces the characters and setting, and the actual plot seems like a bit of an afterthought. Through interviews with Wiebe and articles about the book, the plot seems like it should be interesting enough. It just doesn’t make much of an appearance here.
France was a pretty bleak place to be during World War Two, and Jenkins’ art reflects that. He uses browns and grays for most of the setting, and the characters themselves are dressed in similar colors (even Peter). The penciling itself is done in a similar style. Crumbling buildings, stained clothes, and a general state of destruction come out through the pencils. His lines aren’t as solid and clean as some artists’ are, but it’s just a part of his style that adds to the chaos of the scene.
Despite the points where it falters, though, Peter Panzerfaust is a fresh take on an old story. It’s got enough charm and uniqueness in both the writing and the art to make up for where it doesn’t’ succeed. Even though it’s an adaptation of an old story with a new spin on it, it feels more original than most books on the market. There aren’t many other books with storytelling as stylized as this, and there definitely aren’t any other books where Peter Pan shoots Nazis. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, and this first issue sets the book up for a great next few issues.