If your expectations for all pocket war comics were set by One by One you could only be disappointed by every other issue that you would ever read.
The story focuses on Flight Officer Clifford and the fate of the members of Training School 14 from the beginning of the war to the very end. Underpinning Clifford’s story is the eventual and inevitable demise of all of his flying school classmates.
By page 4 the 1st member of the graduation class is killed in a flying accident and he soon joined by another 2 members of Training School 14 before the next page is turned.
More statistics confirm that this is no romp.
Clifford’s roommate starts a morbid tally by marking the graduation photograph of Training School 14 with a black hat for each fatality. He too eventually gets his own black hat.
Clifford’s character transforms from uncertain and care free student pilot to a determined and intolerable Wing Commander who is only trained for war. The subplot also reveals the progress of the war and the change in tactics and aircraft used by the RAF.
I get the feeling that this one was written by someone who was actually touched by the war or lived through it.
I like this story for what it doesn’t have. It doesn’t use any of the following: fighters get shot out of the sky; “got ‘em”!; donna und blitzen. There’s not one Aggghhh to be heard. There’s no final panel showing men standing around the fireplace at the club reflecting on the exploits of their fallen comrades. There are no ghostly figures smiling from the heavens.
The unusual use of close-ups and subject matter (the panel with the dead Flight Sergeant is outstanding) just make this story even stronger.
If you’re expecting “Tally-Ho chaps in we go” you won’t find it here.
How good is this? Not just one version of the Blenheim but three!
Time for a bit of old fashioned fun. Hurry up Clifford or you'll miss the bags of boost.
By Page 9 things are starting to look bad, but how much worse could they possibly get...?
...well pretty bad actually.
Shouldn't you be chasing girls or getting tanked at a bar somewhere? Find another hobby man and quick!
Take any War Picture Library, Battle Picture Library or Commando comic and you will always find those famous last words “arrgghhhhh” or even “donner und blitzen”.
Cowards try to prove themselves or officers interfere by trying to run battles “by the book”. The enemy is treacherous. Mysterious locations hold significant secrets. Sometimes a simple gun is the focal point of a unique karmic destiny.
There are those who are lost or left behind enemy lines where they invariably make a discovery – a hidden base, a wonder weapon or a traitor. The host of intangible struggles are often more significant such as the dark secret, the family shame, the family curse or the stigma of not being like the other chaps.
Strangely enough for stories about war and battle the killed the dead and the dying are usually absent.
There's a lot to like (and make fun of) among the dramatic titles, fantastic artwork, impossible stories, daring heroes, nasty bad guys, body building and not quite diamond rings advertisements.