Readers of The Lost Art


March 4th, 2009

Crecy¦lt;br /> Writer: Warren Ellis 

Artist: Raulo Caceres

Reviewer: Louise


Crecy is a departure from the norm of graphic novels, being a (more or less) straight retelling of the Battle of Crecy in 1346. Narrated by a foul-mouthed archer, William of Stoneham, the novel has an almost documentary feel to it, following William from the march to the battlefield, through the preparations for the battle, the battle itself and the aftermath, with digressions along the way to discuss the history of the Crecy campaign and the battlefield technology involved.

If that sounds worthy, believe me, it’s not. It’s violent, foul-mouthed (I’ve rarely seen the word c*** used so many times in a graphic novel), and scatological. In other words, it’s a Warren Ellis graphic novel, and a very good one. It really does suck you into the time period of its setting. In 48 pages, Ellis and Caceres (whose black-and-white art throughout is superb) take the reader through the politics of the Hundred Years’ War, the history of Britain until that point, and the (violent, bigoted) attitudes of the English soldiers involved.

Ellis makes no bones about the fact that war is a bloody and horrible business, and nor does Caceres’ art. A particularly effective scene is drawn from the perspective of the arrows about to rain down on the French side’s Genoese crossbowmen; the looks of sheer horror on their faces at the knowledge of what is about to happen to them, following by a panel showing skulls being crushed and eyes popping out as the arrows strike home is stunningly effective in conveying the horrible reality of war in the medieval era.

What lifts this beyond a mere documentary is way the narrator speaks directly to us, his twenty-first century audience, pointing out not only what he is doing, but also the wider implications. An especially memorable line has him saying “Don’t forget; we’re as intelligent as you, but without the same level of cumulative knowledge”, thus placing the arrow technology of Crecy in the context of the ongoing development of war technology leading into our own era of nuclear weapons and germ warfare. The final panel, with William standing triumphant over a field of French corpses, making the famous longbowman’s gesture of defiance which decorates the novel’s front cover, is stunningly effective, making Ellis’ point better than any long pages of dialogue could do; the Battle of Crecy is where notions of chivalry in warfare began to die, and the modern era of win-at-all-costs war began.

Have I persuaded you to go out and read it yet?

• Paperback: 48 pages
• Publisher: Avatar Press (25 Jul 2007)
• Language English
• ISBN-10: 1592910408

(First published 24/10/2007.)

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