Battle Picture WeeklyWorld War IIJohn Wagner
Garth Ennis presents Battle Classics
Medium: comic
Year: 2014
Country: UK
Keywords: Battle Picture Weekly, World War II
Writer: John Wagner, Alan Hebden, Dave Hunt
Artist: Mike Western, John Cooper, Cam Kennedy
Format: 242 pages
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 21 June 2023
battle classics 1
Ennis's name is on this book, but he didn't write its stories. All he's done is write thoughtful introductions, as a massive Battle Picture Weekly fan who's trying to help Titan sell this lavish collection of its stories.
HMS NIGHTSHADE (John Wagner, Mike Western, 185 pages, 1979)
It's hardly even fiction. These are decent, ordinary lads on a British escort vessel in World War Two. They're not John Wagner Bastards (except for Parsons). They lose friends, rescue dogs, jump into Arctic waters to try to save their brother (bad move) and have cockroach races. One of them's a coward (and the strip's much more sympathetic towards him than you'd expect).
Bad things happen. "Few ever escaped from a blazing tanker." Bloody hell. They're at Dunkirk and they twice have to sail the lethal Arctic run to Russia.
There's historical detail, e.g. the canary girls. There are classic John Wagner endings. There's also some variable art by Mike Western, who's never bad but often tries hardest for eye-catching images on the episodes' first pages. His best panels are superb. In his introduction, Ennis argues that this might be Wagner's finest story and elsewhere Ennis has written a story about a British WW2 convoy ship called HMS Nightingale. I wouldn't praise this as highly as Ennis does, but it's very good.
THE GENERAL DIES AT DAWN (Alan Hebden, John Cooper, 45 pages, 1978)
A court-martial sentences General Otto von Margen to be shot at dawn. He's an excellent soldier, but he'd made enemies in the SS and the Gestapo. (He let the enemy blow up an SS tank and he hanged a deserting SS general.)
These eleven tight, grim episodes tell the story of the war from a German perspective. He goes into Russia. He leads punishment squadrons. A real von Margen would have been put up against a wall long before this fictional one does, but it's still another strong story.
"No sign of the Gestapo, eh, Korder?"
"What would they be doing here? They might get hurt!"
Three four-pagers. Cam Kennedy's a famous name. They're okay.
Overall, they're very good. The danger with Battle, I think, is that all those war stories can get a bit repetitive. These, though, are worth remembering and deserved this collection.