Today’s page kind of paints Hartmann as a victim of Private Bennett’s bullying. There’s no question that Private Bennett is a bigoted jerk, but also remember that Hartmann was a Nazi, and in fact, he had a pretty dark past, if you remember some of the things that happened in the last chapter. So it’s actually not an unfair question for Private Bennett to ask, which is “Why are we trusting this man?” Back at the beginning of Chapter 3, during the flashback where we showed Hartmann kill Malachi Schwartz, one commenter asked “Are we meant to feel sympathy for Hartmann?” And that’s a fair question.
Generally, I’d say that we don’t expect you to feel one way or another. I like a character that has a bit of moral ambiguity, and so I like to let the reader decide whether they like them or not, how they feel about them. But we do portray Hartmann as someone who is trying to redeem himself after having been a really pretty vile person. I think that most people find him pretty sympathetic, and I think that one of the main reasons for that is the way that Al draws him. When he’s not freaking out and tearing up the place, he kind of looks like a big, sad puppy dog.
In fact, in this page, in panel 4, I really like the way that Al handled the body language here. Hartmann is this hulking beast of a guy, and yet here in this panel, he seems to be trying to sort of shrink into himself and be as inconspicuous as possible. Then, in panel 5, when Luke calls him out, he’s just so eager to please. Look at that face! But then, of course, Private Bennett has to go and pipe up and ruin the whole moment. Just because he’s right doesn’t mean he’s not a jerk.
So, what do you think of Hartmann? Do you think, after having been such an evil person, redemption is even possible for him? There’s no right or wrong answer, but I’m interested to know what you think!