Garth Ennis
Medium: comic
Year: 2018
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Epting
Format: 6 episodes, altogether 136 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 5 July 2023
"One of the finest works of [Garth Ennis'] career."
...says Alan Moore on the back of the graphic collection. I wouldn't go that far, personally. I think it's pretty normal for an Ennis war story, but that's a high standard and it's extremely good.
The title character is a Russian sniper at the Siege of Leningrad in 1942. War stories are often morally straightforward, but this is full of things to make you uncomfortable. The Soviet regime is as bad as the Nazis (which Ennis makes abundantly clear) and Sara isn't a fan of her political superiors, which isn't a survival strategy. She knows this. It's not clear that she cares. "I imagine myself saying bullshit. It would mean the end of everything -- but with what I do to fill my days, how far off can that be, anyway?"
Our heroines are a team of women snipers, but one of them enjoys torturing prisoners. Anyone who gets captured will meet a fate that makes suicide the only sane choice... and that's demonstrated too, albeit sometimes off-screen. It's a vicious Russian winter and the girls have heard the (true) stories about cannibalism in Leningrad.
For the most part, what happens is what you'd imagine. Sara's got one set of monsters behind her and another set in front. "They're not men. Not human beings of any kind." The ending lives up to what's gone before it, i.e. it's jet-black. The art and colours are beautiful, albeit in a way that's appropriate to the story. Don't expect to find this collection enjoyable, since I'm pretty sure that wasn't one of its goals. But I'd definitely recommend it.