Battle Picture WeeklyWorld War IICarlos Ezquerra
Major Eazy: Heart of Iron
Medium: comic
Year: 1976
Country: UK
Keywords: Battle Picture Weekly, World War II
Writer: Alan Hebden
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
Format: 107 pages
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 10 April 2019
Major Eazy was one of Battle's most popular characters. He had three runs in the magazine, plus a spell in charge of the Rat Pack, and there's a version of him in the Judge Dredd universe called Cursed Earth Koburn. (The writer was Gordon Rennie and the artist was, yes, Carlos Ezquerra.)
What I'm reviewing here is Titan's collection of his first series, covering his time in Italy (July 1943 to May 1945). The later series were all prequels.
It's pretty good. I enjoyed it.
They're 2-3 page episodes, of course. That was the format back then. Eazy's not a monster like Joe Darkie, but he's a laid-back enigma who wears a leather jacket, drives around the battlefield in a Bentley and is on friendlier terms with the Germans than he is with his superior officers. I don't think he actually kills any of the latter (although I had to think about that), but he has zero respect for authority and often seems to be deliberately antagonising them.
"What the devil's an officer doing dressed up like a bandit? I'm speaking to you, Major. Don't you normally stand to attention when a senior officer addresses you?"
"Go to hell."
He's got a moral code. He'll treat captured Germans as well as they deserve, sometimes to the point of letting them go because he likes them. Scum can expect to die, though, occasionally gruesomely. One villain gets impaled on a butcher's meat hook. Eazy's even capable of turning on allies he doesn't like.
"Okay, Yank! If you're too trigger-happy to tell friend from foe, I'm not shedding any tears for you!" (He says this while deliberately shooting down an American plane.)
He's a star. He gives the strip its personality. You might not be expecting much from brief, action-based episodes like this, but you'll remember Eazy. He can shoot a village girl in the back while she's handing out flowers, for instance. He has his reasons, obviously, but for a while you'll be wondering if he's murdered a blameless civilian. There's a Polish captain who doesn't believe in taking German prisoners. Life expectancy: three pages. Eazy is less judgemental with a lynch mob of Italian villagers (i.e. they survive), but he's still very much on the side of the Germans who've surrendered.
He believes in honour among enemies, I think. However he'll still kill huge numbers of Germans, as well as occasionally taking time off to sort out his friends' problems. (Some Mafia gangsters fail to realise that they've jumped genres and are up against the blood-drenched anti-hero of a war strip.)
I'd never heard of Alan Hebden, but he's doing pretty well. His historical research is quite impressive, too. He doesn't jump around in time, but quietly works through these two years of the war in order and keeps Eazy's exploits in synch with what was really happening. He brings in Americans, Poles, Brazilians, Ukranians and Australians. He understands the difference between the Wermacht and its different services, the Gestapo and all the other German forces, including what this means on the battlefield. "One day you blasted Yanks will learn not to play nursemaid with S.S. men. They're the heavy mob, pal... not a bunch of demoralised conscripts!"
Ezquerra is of course famous. It's quite cool to see this early work of his.
This isn't a deep series. Don't expect psychological subtleties. It's about a really cool and somewhat worrying man killing lots and lots of people in wartime. Hebden isn't going the full John Wagner on us, but it's still pretty damn brutal, e.g. a church full of massacred civilians, mostly women and children. Good ultra-violent fun!