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?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Comic Blog Elite