‘Garth Ennis Presents - Battle Classics:’ Hardcover Review

Some of the most treasured books I own are the magnificent, over-sized hardcovers from Titan Books.  I added another gem to the collection recently with Garth Ennis Presents - Battle Classics.  Ennis is one of my favorite writers in comics today.  From Preacher and Punisher to Hellblazer and The Boys, Ennis’ razor-sharp wit, raunchy humor, and profoundly relatable characters have led me to trust him as a writer like few others working today.  Well, I put my trust in him again, and, as usual, I was delighted and enlightened. (Delightened?)

For those who don’t know Battle Picture Weekly or simply Battle, it was a British comic magazine that focused on war stories (mostly WWII) and ran from 1975-88.  It was a huge influence on a young Garth Ennis, who has since written and published the excellent Battlefields which is an homage to the old Battle comic strips, some of the best of which are contained in this book. 

The first series presented in Battle Classics is "HMS Nightshade" by John Wagner and Mike Western.  It follows a ragtag crew of British seamen escorting Allied ships back and forth through war zones, evading the treacherous U-boats when they could and engaging them when they couldn’t.  The characters are lovable and brave, but the strips themselves don’t shy away from the realities of war.  They remain easily PG rated but tend toward the darker themes of honor and betrayal, bravery and death, loss, love, and beautiful, fleeting life.  The second series represented is "The General Dies at Dawn" by Alan Hebden and John Cooper.  This series, interestingly enough, follows a Nazi general who is depicted as a man of honor who abhors the ruthless and violent tactics of the SS and, eventually, even war itself.  It is told as flashback as he shares his past with his jailer the night before he is to be executed.  The final strips are a collection of short stories by Cam Kennedy, each continuing to explore the complex nature of war.      

Within these pages you’ll find some of the most charming characters inhabiting some of the most engaging comics I’ve ever read.  Despite them being over 25 years old, they still feel vibrant and alive.  In fact, it’s refreshing to reexamine this bygone era of mythical simplicity.  These creators depict WWII not as some irreproachable monument to our Western values, but rather they look closely at the conflict and see the imperfections, the complexity, the beauty, and aching tragedy of combat.

Now, don’t be daunted if you’ve never heard of Battle or the comics or creators that wrote and drew them.  I had only the vaguest awareness of Battle and knew nothing of the creators.  But, if you like comics and especially if you like Garth Ennis, you’ll find Battle Classics a valuable and exceedingly entertaining addition to your collection.

Last modified on Tuesday, 25 December 2018 00:21

Sam Rhodes

Favorite MovieYojimbo
Favorite Game:  The newest version of Halo
Favorite Beverage:  Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA

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