World War II
Battler Britton: Bloody Good Show
Medium: comic
Year: 2006
Keywords: World War II
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Colin Wilson
Format: Five 22-page episodes
Website category: Comics
Review date: 24 February 2021
Garth Ennis revives another lesser-known UK comics character who flew planes in World War 2. This one, though, came out in the year of the Moores' Albion and was part of its very small wave of UK comics character revivals. The thuddingly named Battler Britton first appeared in 1956 in The Sun. (No, not the newspaper, but a 1947-59 comic that had previously been a health magazine called Fitness and Sun.) I'm sure he and most of his stories were nicely drawn cardboard, but he must have been popular because the character kept appearing well into the 1970s.
All those old IPC characters ended up getting bought by Warner Bros, so DC Comics had the rights. In 2005, they let Ennis revive him under their Wildstorm imprint.
The obvious comparison is with Ennis's Johnny Red a decade later, which is unfortunate because Britton comes out of it very second-best. Johnny Red was a product of the Mills/Wagner 1970s comics revolution. He's terrifying and so is his world. Battler Briton has nowhere near that level of storytelling power... but this mini-series is still fine. Britton's squadron is ordered to work with some Americans who don't think much of them.
Enemy #1: those damn Yanks... no, that's not fair. It's just Major Gilhooley, really. Battler relieves him of some teeth and the ability to say the letter "S", which is amusing.
Enemy #2: the Nazis. They're in the air in eps.1-4, then on the ground in ep.5. The latter is impressively ultra-violent and Ennis lives up to expectations. By the end, I was happy that I'd read a satisfying blood-and-thunder war story.
There's humour. "If I spew, I think it'll dissolve the instruments." We meet Battler's two flying partners and best friends, one very Scottish and one very Welsh (with an amazing moustache). It's got planes, Nazis and killing in the African desert. It's no Johnny Red, but that's only a problem if (like me) you're reading the two back-to-back. It's pretty good.