Alibi: Review of Aleister & Adolf

In a time where questioning what you see is as important as ever, Aleister and Adolf is a must-read book.

By Mikee Riggs

Aleister and Adolf

Aleister and Adolf

By Douglas Roushkoff, Illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming
Dark Horse Originals
88 pages

In varying degrees, evil can be viewed as subjective. What someone may perceive as a monster, another person could see as tame. Aleister and Adolfseeks to show you just that. While the book is by no means saying Adolf Hitler wasn’t evil, it does paint Aleister Crowley in a better light. To some, Crowley is a man of pure evil. Perhaps the most famous occultist, Crowley’s views are often seen as controversial. In Aleister and Adolf Crowley is painted as a deep thinker who at times is very self-centered, but is certainly not evil; in this way, the work is a breath of fresh air.

Aleister and Adolf is a work of historical fiction by Douglas Rushkoff and Michael Avon Oeming. At the very beginning of the book, Rushkoff notes “Most of the stuff in this story really happened. The rest may as well have,” implying that the overall story being used to share the facts is an interpretation, but only to a certain degree. The story begins in 1995 with Roberts, a young web developer, attempting to transfer a logo for a company online. The logo is thought to be corrupted, so he goes looking for answers from its original designer. Instead of an easy answer, he finds a story that takes place during World War II involving Aleister Crowley, who is attempting to manipulate and in turn defeat the Nazis. The logo’s designer is working for the army and has been tasked with coercing Crowley into helping America seize an item dubbed the Spear of Destiny from Hitler. Roberts soon finds himself sliding deep into a rabbit hole of sexual ritual and occult beliefs.

The story itself revolves around the power and deeper meaning of symbols. Crowley is convinced the swastika is feeding Hitler’s power and in turn, tries to come up with a strong symbol that can counteract it. The book spends a lot of time digging into the power of symbolism and uses it as a means to show Roberts’ descent into occultism.

Rushkoff’s writing in this graphic novel is astounding. He creates well-crafted characters and uses them expertly to move the story along. The story itself is rich, complex and well researched. Rushkoff has taken the time to learn the subject matter and does it justice without making it seem at all hokey. He manages to tackle Crowley, occultism, the Holocaust and iconography without once making the story feel muddy or bogged down.

Backing up this strong plot and taking it to the next level is the art of Michael Avon Oeming. Oeming has been developing his talent for decades now. His work on Powers solidified him as a business mainstay as well as one of the contemporary greats. In Aleister and Adolf, Oeming does some of his best work to date. His style is sharp and concise, making the story even more engaging. His panel work is something to be marveled at. Throughout the book, Oeming creates amazing two- and single-page layouts that jump off the paper. His style is stark but compelling, creating a whole that is nothing short of brilliant. Aleister and Adolf’s art alone could be viewed as a master class in graphic storytelling.

Overall, this is a strong story about what’s on the surface and what meanings are hidden. It asks you to look past its source material and ask questions about the world around you. In a time where questioning what you see is as important as ever, Aleister and Adolf is a must-read book.