Friday, 14 March 2014

The Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft Graphic Novel Review

Review By Patrick Scattergood

Based on the Book
Harry Haft: Auschwitz Survivor, Challenger of Rocky Marciano by Alan Scott Haft

Written By
Reinhard Kleist

Art and Cover By
Reinhard Kleist

Published By
Self Made Hero

Biography, Second World War


Separated from his family in Nazi-occupied Poland and plunged into the horror and degradation of the concentration camps, young Hertzko Haft found himself forced into life-or-death boxing matches by his SS captors.

His battles took him to the end of the Second World War and - against all the odds - liberation.

Chasing a rumor to post-war America, Hertzko became Harry and traded desperation for professional boxing - all the send a message to a long-lost friend.

Reinhard Kleist's vivid and expressive storytelling shows us two halves of a divided life, and the common thread running through them both.

Contrasting the privations of wartime with the possibilities of a new life across the ocean, The Boxer tells the incredible true story of Haft's struggle against experiences that would shape the rest of his life.


Self Made Hero has fast become one of my favorite publishers since I started reviewing their releases for a couple of reasons.  One is that their releases are so varied that there really is something for everyone.  Biographies, drama, horror, even adaptations of classic and modern works.  Sometimes their releases can seem a little random but that's one of the best parts about them, you never know what they are going to put out there next.   The second reason is that no matter what genre the release is, you just know that it's going to be incredibly high quality.

Their last release 'Vincent' got full marks on this site, which as regular visitors will know, doesn't happen very often.  I have to admit, that I didn't think they would be able to match such a gorgeous and brilliantly written graphic novel.

Well, did they manage to match it?

Most definitely yes.

The thing to remember is that this is a completely different story and art style to 'Vincent' and therefore can't really be compared so to speak.  That said, this stark and sometimes brutal telling of the life story of Harry Haft, is a massively well written, paced and drawn story that will positively drawn you in, shock you and touch you.

'The Boxer' really is a heartbreaking yet inspiring look at a man that was so affected by the brutal and tragic things that happened to him.  At the same time, Kleist manages to not paint him as completely perfect.  In fact, he is painted as flawed and sometimes even brutal himself in a few moments yet never painted as a horrible person.  Just as one that was psychologically damaged by all the things that he saw, did and was made to participate in just to be to survive.

Writing wise, this graphic novel is absolutely superb.  I honestly couldn't put it down, which seems to be pretty much the norm for the Self Made Hero releases, despite some of the more unsettling scenes.  One of the things that struck me about this one is the simple fact that I really think that this story really is one of the most important from the Second World War era in that seeing just what the people were subjected to.

This is where the art really comes in to it's own.  In fact, like the art for the 'Vincent' release, it's absolutely perfect for the graphic novel.  I honestly couldn't think of a different artist or style for 'The Boxer' in that I really don't think that any changes would work.  The stark, brutal black and white art really forces home just what happened in the camps and in the cities themselves.  The fact that it's in black and white is also another strength in that because of the stark nature of it, as I've said before, makes the scenes memorable and heart breaking.

If you are looking for a book that sums up the hardship, brutality and sadness of the Second World War, then look no further.  This is both a touching, sad story yet at the same time inspiring but without falling in to the trap of painting the subject as a perfect person.  Instead Haft is shown here to be a man with problems but they're so well explored that you can fully understand why he struggled after the war and why it was such a battle for him to come to terms with what he was made to be part of and with what he saw happen to the people around him.

Another fantastic release from Self Made Hero that is both beautiful, horrifying and inspiring in equal measure.

Story 10/10
Art 10/10
Cover 10/10
Recommended 10/10
Overall 40/40

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