Friday, December 31, 2010

War Picture Library 107 Death Took No Side

Quality! Quality from cover to cover. Quality story, quality artwork - everything about Death Took No Side is superb. Let's start with the main character Private Frank Kendrick. He is the supreme loner. He comes from a broken home and cares for nobody but himself. Even the very mention of family sends him either into a rage or into fits of derision. Until of course he befriends Corporal Jock. Jock also comes broken home except of course he is different - he doesn't hate the world. Just as Frank is starting to feel good about himself, despite being bombed and shot at - Jock is killed in a counterattack intended to make time for the besieged garrison at Tobruk. The attack and Jock's death become pointless as Tobruk had already fallen by the time the counterattack was ordered. Frank then deserts with the intention of either dying alone or not giving up his life for anybody or any cause.
Frank stumbles across an Australian lost in the desert and together they are forced into some harsh choices in order to survive. Frank falls ill and is nursed back to health by his new antipodean friend. Frank isn't very good at keeping friendships (the Australian is killed in vicious hand to hand combat) and he finds himself alone again.

Circumstance then presents Frank with a choice. He can run away again or face a very uncertain future (or that should that be almost certain future) and try and stop the enemy - by manning an anti-tank gun by himself. And that's the last we see of him watching a German tank getting closer. I am a fan of any pocket war comic brave enough to finish a story without a neatly resolved ending.

This is a great story that could have been ruined in so many places. Surely there was an editor somewhere begging for a pair of smiling ghosts looking over Frank as he prepares to take on the enemy single handily. But there isn't and that's what makes this story so fantastic. Also the quality of the artwork is pretty darn good displaying a wonderful and masterful mix of shading, clean lines, white space, detail, animation and composition. The artist even manages to insert a small moment of whimsy among the military clutter and human wreckage in the shape of a small lizard sunning before a destroyed allied tank.

This is a terrific War Picture Library to look out for as it delivers from cover to end.

Yaaah! is like Aaagh! except it's the sound you make when you're stickin' it to the other guy.

What a great bit of ink work! I love it!! There's so much going on in this one panel.

I don't understand. All the good guys are heroes aren't they?

I've had it so tough that getting shot at by Nazis and shouted at by NCO's is a paradise.

What work!

Never has a destroyed Grant (or should that be a Lee) been so lovingly drawn.

This is desperate stuff.

Bloody Australians and their disregard for class.

Time to man up Frank and drink that cup of cement.

Never too late to sing "I did it my way..."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Air Ace Picture Library 412 Tigers in Action

More Americans? Well not exactly. Even though the Americans are talked up at the beginning - there is a literary slight of hand and the story is not really about them at all despite the expectations set by the title. Tigers in Action is really about a British pilot Alan Sinclair. He is a former pilot, tagged unfit to fly due to a head wound sustained in the Battle of Britain. He jokes that the steel plate in his skull makes him "the only pilot with an armoured head". More about that later.

The Americans line up for their typical stereotypes and are depicted as being brave, brash and boastful. The British are relatively bland but suffer from having a pompous superior officer (who does make good in the end). The Chinese (after all the Flying Tigers are a Chinese unit formed with foreign pilots) manage to escape being badly stereotyped and are depicted as brave and intelligent. Finally the Japanese are shown as arrogant and boastful. However what's really interesting is that a lot of effort or consideration has gone into not drawing Japanese faces in full or at all. Is there something sinister behind this decision? Was the thinking that readers might get confused between the Chinese and their Japanese opponents. I've never had a problem in distinguishing between the Germans and their opponents - so why should there be problem with distinguishing between Chinese and Japanese. Or am I just looking at this through a filter created by years of political correctness?

Otherwise Tigers in Action is a pretty good story following the squadron getting chased around China as the Japanese continue their aggressive attacks. The bromance between Alan Sinclair (Englishman) and Mike Wade (American) comes to an abrupt end when Wade is shot down over the jungle due to a lack of concentration by Sinclair. Was Sinclair's old head wound to blame? While Sinclair undergoes medical evaluation to find out, Wade has a series of adventures with the ground troops and returns to finish off the story with his friend.  There are also a good number of elaborate plans , frantic opportunities, grim determination from both sides and lots of aircraft in the sky and at times even more falling out of the sky.

As expected there is a fine assortment of aircraft in Tigers in Action including Tomahawks, Nakajimas,  twin-engined Mitsubishi bombers, Lysanders, Zeros and Warhawks which is always a good thing to see in an Air Ace Picture Library.

Look! Lots and lots of aircraft. Good to see a Nakajima buzzing around.

Look Ma! No helmet hair! (These two have spent the whole morning flying around and have just taken off their flying helmets and their coiffures are still perfect!)


Time to get that mocking hiss fixed. It might still be covered by warranty.

A good AAAAGH! from a Japanese pilot.

I'm fighting my over developed sense of school boy humour to leave this one alone.

The good old days!

What is it with this guys hair?
Lysanders! Always a welcome sight in any pocket war comic.
Oops! The Tigers go from heros to Zeros in no time at all.

Do I really have to take off all of my clothes for you to check my pulse? Hey! Are you really a doctor?

Bad guy lesson number 33 never diss the enemy while during a smoko break. You should know what happens next.

Nasty business. The allies don't get it all their own way in this one.

Monday, December 6, 2010

War Picture Library 74 Front Line

If you went through life and everybody around you kept on getting killed - wouldn't you develop some sort of phobia? Bob Maxwell is that kind of a man. However he has an excuse - he's in the middle of a war.

To start off with his company gets wiped out. Then the counter attack fails...and this is just the beginning. Where ever he goes the places, the things and the people around him get shot-up, blown-up or machine gunned.

Even the favoured Lieutenant gets it - only he is replaced by a puffed up arrogant and ignorant artillery captain who is beautifully drawn as he is instantly unlikeable. Front Line is doing well as a story until all of a sudden there is an Old Chateau found intact, unravaged, fully furnished, and complete with all fixtures and fittings all in place. It looks like it's ready to list on or feature in an episode of Location, Location, Location or have Joan Rivers rummage through it on How Did You Get So Rich?

Then there is the family legend that the chateau will fall when the last male heir dies. Then guess which Frenchman, of all the Frenchmen in the world, manages to crash land his Typhoon into the front yard and flatten the garden gnomes and tyre swans?

After this point there are no surprises - which is a bit of shame as I was just getting used to them.

The artwork is also not immune to a surprise or two. Some of the work is fluid but most of it is stiff. The cover has an unfinished quality to it - well at least to my untrained eyes. However the expression of the man with the sten gun does well to evoke a mixture of horror, angst and fear. Between the covers the artwork has its highs and lows as mentioned before - but the artist's invitation to dislike the artillery captain can only be immediately accepted.

Front Line is one of those pocket war comic stories that is mostly enjoyable.

Even though the subject matter is a bit grim this is a good looking panel.

That under the hat Aaargh! looks like a hasty redraw.

It might appear odd Sir, but this really is a regimental tradition and you being an officer and all should be used to this kind of thing.

Nice Typhoon in a spot of bother.

Hints and tips for bad guys number 17. When your comrade calls you by your first name during an enemy attack it's time to RUN.

Ha ha! This guy looks like me stumbling home after a big night out.

Captain Wingnut takes the lead.

Boy that was lucky.

Top marks to the artist on the artillery Captain. How can someone be so unlikeable in so few lines?

Monday, November 29, 2010

War Picture Library 85 Break-Through

Not the worst war picture library ever written but it could win an award for being the most tedious.

There just isn't any emotional energy in this story as it just plods along going from one incident to the next. There's nothing wrong with the background to the story as desperate attacks and counterattacks follow each other and the narrative is never too far away in reminding the reader about the harsh cost of war in human lives. The main characters have all the right attributes for a good story; two of them are front line veterans, another is the tough but fair athletic military policeman and in a supporting role there is an immoral and treacherous coward.

All the fragments are there for a reasonable if not good story but they just don't come together. It would require some exceptional artwork to lift Break-Through to an acceptable level - but sadly it isn't there. However on a positive note the charging Tommy on the cover is ready defeat the Hun with a yell and blinding blaze of white webbing is pretty damn good.

The cover alone however cannot save Break-Through. This is one of those stories that makes it into the "er not the best" catergory. The more I read Break-Through the more I found myself turning each page in desperation waiting for something dramatic to happen. I think I uttered "AAAAGH!" out of absolute frustration more times than I would like to admit.

You're accused of eating all the cream buns...
This is supposed to be a tough detention camp. The man on the extreme left appears to be singing a song and the two on the extreme right are having a good old chat while checking out each other's thighs.
Another game of Risk! in progress.
Funny isn't it? They'll charge at enemy machine guns, run headlong at enemy tanks and fight in deadly hand to hand combat. But step on one sharp stone and all of a sudden its "ouch!"
His troops call him the Mexican.
If one of your comrades was killed by two escaping prisoners wouldn't you administer Rule 303? Or in the German's case Rule 7.92.
Why not now? Or in four days? Or how about a week from Thursday?
That would have to be the worst armoured car ever produced. With designs like that it just goes to show why the Germans lost the war.

Curiously the Man of Lamancha poster survived the inferno and is now available on eBay.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Battle Picture Library 68 Seize-and Hold

Englishmen shooting Englishmen? Sergeants shooting their own officers? Based on actual events (yeah right!) Seize-and Hold grabs and contains your attention through a well-constructed flashback storyline and some nice crisp artwork.

It all starts with a courtroom drama where Sergeant Curtis stands accused of murdering his own squad in order to save his own life. As evidence is given by each witness in turn the events of that fateful day are disclosed and the truth is eventually revealed. This is a tidy story as each witnesses' evidence builds on the details of the previous witness. There are even a few red herrings thrown in this Battle Picture Library - well as many that can swim around in 64 pages.

Curtis's war turns into one huge guilt trip when he discovers, Lieutenant Welch, his new platoon leader, is the younger brother of the respected but ultimately psychotic and now very dead Captain Welch. Why the guilt trip? Because Curtis blew Captain Welch away in what could be best described as a battlefield gangland shooting, that is to say up close and personal. Curtis of course has no choice but to pull the trigger as the nutso captain was about to embark on a prisoner killing spree. It's not the morality of the situation that worries Curtis. Even though Captain Welch running around shouting "Kill Kill" and then delivering on that promise to the unarmed prisoners is more shocking than concerning. What really worries Curtis is that he and the rest of his men stand a good chance of being captured and then getting the same treatment from the enemy. So hence the reason for gunning down Lieutenant Welch's older brother.

In trying to absolve his guilt, Curtis becomes obsessed with making sure the younger Welch survives the war. This leads to the incident where Curtis stands accused of deliberately placing his squad in harm's way for his own survival.

A pocket war comic worth getting a hold of, if not just for the cover of the paratrooper with the grenade firmly in his grasp, pin clenched between his teeth and gritty determinism in his eyes. Also worth getting to see a British officer being a murderous swine - behaviour that is usually only attributed to the Hun.

For those who take an interest the inarticulate cry Seize-and Hold has quite a number. Among the many interpretations there are AAAGH, AIEEE..., AHGHH!, AAGH!, UGGGH!, and an AAAHHH...

 Everybody deserves a friend.
It was another Thursday evening game night and as usual Barney would always take forever during his turn of Axis and Allies

 That's one really ugly dude in the foreground.
...and I think I got him - but I wasn't sure. So I fired again.
 Caution - Loonie English officer on the loose.

German army experiments in supine levitation are moderately successful.

I just want to make sure that I got them!

You know...despite the death and destruction and explosions and having most of my platoon killed right around me this war thing just isn't doing it for me anymore. 

And a mighty fine AHGHH---.

A strange little panel.

Dead guys in a field and a short AAGH!
Kiss me you fool. You know you want to and you know I want you too.

What a guy! If I had one like that I'd have it out too.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Comic Blog Elite