Wednesday , May 29 2024
Most of the stories are good, but overall it ends up feeling like a big tease.

Graphic Fiction Review: The Best of Battle (Vol. 1) by John Wagner, John Cooper, et al.

Written by Pirata Hermosa

A compilation of a number of the most popular British War Comics from 1975-1988 that were first published in Battle Picture Weekly and continued through its many incarnations. This collection contains stories from eighteen different comic strips set during WWII dealing with many issues and perspectives on the war from both sides of the conflict.

Some of the stories are about indestructible leaders such as “D-Day Dawson,” who has a bullet near his heart and no fear of dying; “Major Eazy,” who is the ultimate example of cool under pressure and fights battles from the seat of his own car; “Darkie’s Mob,” a mysterious officer who is so badass that the Japanese flee at the utterance of his name.

A few of the stories are also shown from the German perspective, but with these soldiers they are trying to bring back honor to their name and prove themselves over false accusations. “Fighter from the Sky” is about a German paratrooper who has been stripped of his identity because his father tried to warn the people that Poland was about to be invaded. “Panzer G-Man” was falsely accused of being a coward when he tried to stop a deserter and was the only survivor in his battalion. Now he must fight as a grenadier who runs along beside the tanks as they fight the Russians.

While there are more than enough different comics to match many different tastes readers may have when they pick up this book, the sheer volume of them is ultimately what leads to its downfall.

With so many selections, each one only gets about four strips. This format is okay for some of the strips like “The Bootneck Boy,” where a young man tries to prove that he’s big enough and old enough to make it as a Royal Marine. His adventures are self-contained and can be enjoyed no matter what the length. You see his evolution from being turned down because of his size, to saving a ship from mines, and then he saves his men while taking over an airstrip.

In “Day of the Eagle,” the story is extremely compressed. Not only is Mike Nelson (The Eagle) given a mission to assassinate Hitler but only a few pages later he has made it all the way into Munich and has put a well-placed bullet between the Fuhrer’s eyes. Before you can really get into the story, it’s over.

But the worst example of how small snippets don’t work is “Hold Hill 19”. A group of 13 soldiers have to hold the hill against an onslaught of Germans. Each comic is one day of the fight. The story gets more and more intense as they fend off different enemy waves and end up losing several of their own men. And then, on Day 3 it stops, leaving you hanging. By far that was the most frustrating of them all. It was like watching a DVD and the disc stops playing right when you get to the end.

The two best comics are “Rat Pack and “Johnny Red.” “Rat Pack” is much like the film The Dirty Dozen where you have a group of convicts that escape from prison and are sent on various suicide missions. “Johnny Red” is about an undisciplined fighter pilot for the R.A.F. who gets demoted to the merchant marines. But when their fleet comes under attack he steals a Hurricane and shoots down the attackers. Afraid that he will get in trouble for stealing the plane, he flies into Russia and teams up with a ragtag group of Russian pilots.

Most of the stories are good, but overall it ends up feeling like a big tease. There’s an advertisement in the back for the Titan Books website where you can purchase some of the full collections. Unfortunately, after checking the website I was unable to locate any of them currently for sale, but some of them are scheduled for release later in the year.

About Cinema Sentries

Formerly known as The Masked Movie Snobs, the gang has unmasked, reformed as Cinema Sentries, and added to their ranks as they continue to deliver quality movie and entertainment coverage on the Internet.

Check Also

John Lisle

Book Interview: John Lisle, Author of ‘The Dirty Tricks Department: Stanley Lovell, The OSS, and The Masterminds of World War II Secret Warfare’

"History should be about storytelling."