So, here are my thoughts:
The Harlem Hellfighters follows an all-black regiment in WWI and showcases the racism they dealt with and their astounding bravery in spite of it. This is typically the kind of tale that I never get tired of, the against-all-odds heroes who go above and beyond duty—all while being spit on (and worse) by their fellow soldiers. This story gets an extra boost because the regiment is real and many of the characters that appear in the pages come straight out of history.
The author, Max Brooks, is best known for his World War Z comic book, which, admittedly, I haven’t read yet. And, while I enjoyed The Harlem Hellfighters, I’m not sure that this book would make me seek out his other work. I feel that maybe because Brooks was trying to hit all the history, he missed out on a stronger narrative opportunity or two. The Harlem Hellfighters would make a great addition to a junior high/high school library because it’s really more a ‘fun’ way to read about history than a graphic novel for comic book fans, you know? I didn’t leave this graphic novel thinking, “Wow, this was a great story! I loved Edge’s character!” so much as, “Wow, I learned a lot.”
Which surprised me, because there are some amazingly moving scenes and we, for the most part, follow a single character. I can’t quite put my finger on why I was never able to sink my teeth into this. It might be the skipping through history; it might also be the art.
Like a lot of graphic novel/comic book fans, I need to have both working for me to get the ultimate experience. I can enjoy a book where the art is better than the story, and visa versa, but it’s a far better ride for me when both are hitting the same notes. I wonder if I’d have felt differently if it were an affordable option to print all the pages in color. Regardless, at this point it comes down to preference and stylistic bents… and, thus, to each their own. My experience with the Caanan White's art might be completely different than yours.
So, I guess, ultimately, I’d give The Harlem Hellfighters a recommendation to anyone interested in World War 1 history, African American experiences, or the history of racism in America (and Europe.) For comic book/graphic novel fans, it could be hit and miss. I would still say check it out if this sounds like your kind of thing. (I should note, the cover price is $16.95, not too steep for a graphic novel, many Marvel collections for instance are much higher, though you do often get full-color pages in those.)