January 21, 2010


RELENTLESS PURSUIT: The True Story of the Nez Perce War of 1877 may be the best Native-themed comic book no one has ever heard of.

I mean that almost literally. As far as I can tell, there isn't a single posting about it on the Internet. This one will be first.

The four-issue mini-series was written and drawn by Jeff Kear and published by Slave Labor Graphics in 1989. As the subtitle indicates, it tells the Nez Perce story: from Joseph's becoming chief to his "I will fight no more forever" surrender.

RELENTLESS PURSUIT is good for several reasons:

  • Kear produced it with sensitivity and care. Even though he's white, it tells the story from a Native point of view. As far I can tell, it's free of mistakes and stereotypes.

  • In most accounts of Indian history, the reader is like an observer far above the scene. This series puts you in the middle of the action, as if you're talking, fighting, and running with the Indians.

  • Kear's rough black-and-white art works well for this kind of story. It almost feels as though the comic was printed from sketches done in person.

  • Enjoyable and educational, too

    Among the things I learned from the comics were:

  • The whites' idea of negotiation was to insist in increasingly firm tones that the Nez Perce had to leave their ancient homeland in Oregon's Wallowa Valley.

  • Joseph was only one of several Nez Perce leaders at the time. Some wanted to give up, some wanted to fight, and some wanted to flee.

  • The Indians fought several running battles with their pursuers. These battles consisted of a dozen or so people shooting at each other through the rocks and trees.

  • The Indians generally outfought or outfoxed their pursuers. They eventually had to surrender because other tribes stopped helping them and it became too hard to run with women and children.

  • Only a couple things marred this otherwise fine series. Occasionally I found it hard to tell the Nez Perce leaders apart. In the fourth issue, Kear switches from mostly pictures with some text to mostly text with some pictures. This probably was a move to cut costs, but it makes the conclusion less effective.

    Perhaps the best part is that RELENTLESS PURSUIT is inexpensive. You can get the whole series for less than $9.00 plus shipping at Mile High Comics. These days, $9 will buy you only two empty-headed superhero comics plus change.

    In short, anyone who likes Native-themed comics should get RELENTLESS PURSUIT. For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

    No comments: