The Faithful Spy: a graphic novel review

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix
Back Cover Summary: Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party’s evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!
In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to free the German people from oppression during World War II.

Lately, Bill and I have been watching Warrior Nun on Netflix. It’s a fun watch – nuns protecting the earth from Hell through safe-guarding an angel’s halo in Ava’s back, which gives her superpowers, all the while working to beat corruption from within their own institution. It didn’t surprise me at all when Bill told me that it began as a graphic novel. There’s just something about screen adaptations of comics and graphic novels that really piques my interest – and, I’d argue, most Americans.

I think it’s because we want a hero. There’s something in our host of American mythological gods and goddesses (you know, Captain America, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Guardians) that we recognize deep in our bones. Something’s not right, we need someone to fix it, and maybe – just maybe – that someone could be like me or you. That human longing existed long before Marvel or DC. It’s the savior motiff. We long for an anointed one to make things right again, and we often turn to fantastical stories of heroes to get that fix.

But I just read a graphic novel about a real-life hero. It was the most interesting non-fiction book I’ve read in a long time. Of course, I’d heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I have a degree in Biblical Studies and a Master’s Degree in Theology. We talked a little about the German theologian who wrestled with the ethics of plotting to kill Adolf Hitler. But the way this book tells the story is much more captivating than a lecture.

Author and Illustrator John Hendrix beautifully blends narrative, color, dialogue, and symbolism to create a high-energy read that was difficult to put down. I found myself saying to Bill, “I just have a couple more pages.” It’s dense, but digestible. I’m also wondering why we don’t teach more history this way.

Hendrix artfully employs white, black, red, and teal as his only colors throughout the book. Teal often represents “the good side,” while red is reserved for the Nazi party. As you read this book, keep your eyes out for the times in which teal and red clash and overlap – Hendrix has something to say in those illustrations. My one critique is that the font is rather small in some places, which made it difficult for my eyes to focus – especially when the type is black over a block of red. White type over red blocks would be significantly easier to read.

We all want a hero, and most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, want to be heroic. The Faithful Spy tells one man’s story of heroism. Spoiler alert (well, not really because this is a historical account, and can you spoil something that’s supposed to be common knowledge?): Bonhoeffer didn’t complete his mission, and he didn’t survive. Often times, the heroes don’t; the work of justice is a long-game. The Faithful Spy is a timely read for teens and adults alike seeking to explore how people of faith renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, repent, and resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

The Faithful Spy on Amazon
John Hendrix’s Website
John Hendrix on Twitter
John Hendrix on Instagram

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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