Battlefields

Battlefields 6 (May 2013)

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Ennis wraps up Battlefields this issue. Not just Anna’s story, but the series in general–he puts a close on how he’s been telling these war stories. He might be able to pick it up again, but it’ll have to feel different.

He jumps ahead again–Anna and Mouse are in a prison camp for ten or twelve years, wasting away while their nemesis has become their jailer. There’s a lot of back and forth between Anna and the jailer. This issue’s a lot about gender. Ennis does great with it, but Braun wins for the scene where Anna finally loses her cool.

And the ending. It’s long, unpredictable, sad, tragic, glorious. It feels very Russian, at least how people think things are Russian when they mean it as a compliment. Throughout this arc, Ennis has consistently written himself into impossible corners and deftly brought himself out.

It’s wonderful work.

CREDITS

The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova, Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Russ Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

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Battlefields 5 (March 2013)

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Wow.

Okay, starting at the beginning. Ennis jumps ahead five or six years, then fills the reader in on Anna and Mouse’s time since the war. Specially how Anna got out of her cliffhanger.

Now they’re in a different war–training North Korean pilots to fly against the Americans–and there’s not much appreciation for either woman.

When things start to go bad, Anna reacts poorly, making things much, much worse.

Ennis uses the issue not to do a standard war comic, but a specific one about the Soviet Union and how they treat their soldiers (and women). Then he puts in these little moments of humor, which give the comic lots of texture but also make the comic even more devastating.

Given how bad things are going, I almost don’t want to read the last issue.

Russ Braun does fantastic work. His facial expressions are great, especially for Anna.

CREDITS

The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Russ Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 4 (February 2013)

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The war in Europe’s almost over and Ennis brings back Anna the pilot to do a story about that period.

She gets shot down in the first few pages and ends up in a prison camp. Ennis keeps it all incredibly simple. The scenes are during her recovery, the only other character the medic. He’s a British Jew. There’s a lot of talking about the war and the different countries.

It’s a talking heads book masquerading as a war comic. The two heads talking have to be interesting and Ennis carefully presents both his actors. Anna occasionally has unexpected reactions, while the Brit is patient and polite to the last.

Then Ennis finds an unexpected hard cliffhanger. Even though he foreshadows to it–and Anna should, it turns out, know what’s coming–it’s a surprise. There’s only so much horror one wants to imagine for the characters.

Very good stuff.

CREDITS

The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Russ Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 3 (January 2013)

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Ennis saves the big tank battle for the last issue of the arc; he also does away with most of the historical details. They’re an aside. The tank crew’s experience in the battle is the focus.

In many ways the tank crew are bystanders in the issue. Ennis shows how they experience what’s happening to their fellow soldiers; not a lot happens to Stiles and company themselves. Maybe because Ennis didn’t really establish anyone but Stiles, his sidekick and Stiles’s fellow tank commander. Even with the shift in tone, Ennis is able to make the arc feel seamless.

Once again, the Ezquerra art leaves a little to be desired. It feels too crisp. The big battle scenes are occasionally confusing and not for the right reasons. The art doesn’t establish anyone but Stiles and his fellow commander and they don’t get a lot of close-ups.

It’s good, not great.

CREDITS

The Green Fields Beyond, Part 3: Death Ride; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Carlos Ezquerra; inker, Hector Ezquerra; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 2 (December 2012)

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Stiles and his sidekick spend the issue away from the rest of the crew, observing a famous historical battle. They participate, but Ennis mostly just uses Stiles to explain what’s going on. He does it in such a way, of course, it never feels like exposition.

It should though–I mean, Stiles’s sidekick is a generic new recruit, the perfect person to be getting the exposition. Maybe the horrific conditions makes it seem less obvious, but it really didn’t occur to me how obvious it could have been until after finishing the issue. During, one can’t concentrate on anything but what he or she is reading.

The art is still loose, but there are some amazing panels in here. Particularly the phosphorous sequence.

Ennis outdoes himself. Battlefields becomes an educational docudrama and Ennis never draws attention to that value of it. He maintains the dramatic tension throughout, especially the finish.

CREDITS

The Green Fields Beyond, Part 2: God for Harry, England and Saint George; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Carlos Ezquerra; inker, Hector Ezquerra; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 1 (November 2012)

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It wouldn’t be Battlefields without the Tankies and Sergeant Stiles. But Ennis is also doing a Korean War story–and drawing attention to the lack of attention the Korean War gets–so Ennis is coming from a different place. He’s educating.

A lot about Battlefields is different. Stiles is older and more self-reflective, for example. Te tank crew isn’t as important (so far). Stiles has a big scene with another WWII veteran as Ennis emphasizes the men returning to battle after an unsatisfying peacetime.

And the Ezquerra brothers are a little loose on the art. It’s still distinct and good, but it’s too broad and hurried at times. There’s no humor, just melancholy, and it doesn’t seem like they know how to do it.

Ennis has clearly worked hard to get the script right. He’s not doing a standard war comic, rather a specific one with familiar characters added.

CREDITS

The Green Fields Beyond, Part 1: Now Thrive The Armourers; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Carlos Ezquerra; inker, Hector Ezquerra; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 9 (August 2010)

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Could you be more depressing Garth Ennis? I mean, it’s really not depressing, not in the futility way the first Battlefields embraced… but it’s the first issue of this series to get me to tear up.

So it’s really effective.

It’s also the perfect example of why Ennis shouldn’t have done any sequels in this second Battlefields series. This arc hasn’t been anything but a postscript to Night Witches.

Really awful computer colors from Aviña–I’m assuming he was instructed to add all the shadows so whoever had that idea is a bit of a jerk. The series is rather unpleasant to look at during the talking heads scenes. The battle scenes are fine (I notice Aviña doesn’t add out of place shadows there).

It’s a good issue, but suggests maybe Battlefields doesn’t need to continue. Ennis has the ability to tell these stories, but the passion is absent here.

CREDITS

Motherland, Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Russell Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 8 (July 2010)

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Still a ton of art issues–I can’t be the only one who’s noticed Aviña’s colors are horrific on this issue. Luckily, Braun keeps it together, saving the strange tablet lines for the last couple pages.

There’s a lot of flying battle stuff in this issue. Three double-page spreads. It shows the chaos really well, but it’s also filler. Along with Anna talking to herself (and hearing her dead friend talk back to her), it’s clear Ennis doesn’t have the story to fill this arc out properly. He’s never been good at war sequels anyway.

It’s not bad, not by a long shot, but there are only a few excellent moments. Nice moments, sure… but only a few excellent ones.

It also reads really fast. I think the entire issue took five minutes to read. Any emotional weight Ennis is getting is from it being a Night Witches sequel.

CREDITS

Motherland, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Russell Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 7 (June 2010)

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Is Braun drawing on a computer tablet here? His lines just seem completely unnatural. Of course, his art’s really loose–the size of Anna’s face isn’t constant.

And Tony Aviña’s colors are atrocious here. Looks like a beginner’s guide to Photoshop coloring.

The visual complaints aside, this issue starts fine. I’m a little unsure of another sequel (this time to Night Witches), especially after the last issue. Ennis has some good material in the issue–there’s some funny, touching stuff with this young female mechanic who’s inspired by an indifferent Anna. Indifferent being the polite way of putting it.

But, once again, Ennis has a lot of humor in the issue. It’s well-executed… but it doesn’t feel right, not when one thinks of the first Battlefields series.

Ennis maintains the attention to historical detail, but this issue is mostly full of Anna’s angst.

It’s good, but I’m getting wary.

CREDITS

Motherland, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Russell Braun; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 6 (May 2010)

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The curse of the full page panels. Ezquerra has two in the last few pages and it hurts the reading experience. The tank battle needed more elucidation, not full page panels.

I have no idea how this issue ends, but I’m assuming since Ennis is literal with Battlefields, it’s not ending with a ghost. It’s more Ezquerra’s fault, his panicked faces are all looking alike at the end of the issue. But it’s also Ennis’s fault for not leaving enough room.

The confusion leaves the arc a lot less steady than I thought possible for a Battlefields story. Sadly, Tankies is the strongest and its sequel is the weakest. In some ways, I think Ennis got too comfortable. It served him well in the first story, while here… it’s “just” a sequel. It’s horrifying and affecting, but mostly because of the familiar protagonist.

Worth a read, of course, just disappointing.

CREDITS

The Firefly and His Majesty, Part Three: Kingdom of Dust; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Carlos Ezquerra; inker, Hector Ezquerra; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 5 (April 2010)

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I’d like to call a foul on Ennis here for playing the reader but it’s not his fault. Maybe he knew the reader would get comfy, a little relaxed, laughing at the jokes… only to have the last couple pages of the issue knock the wind out of him or her.

So instead of calling foul, I’ll just say he makes a great turn at the end. I can’t imagine what this story would read like without Ezquerra. He does such a perfect job with the expressions. He manages the humor, the exhaustion, the anger and the horror in such a way he brings the whole issue to life.

This issue is rather full. Not a lot of time passes, but Ennis gives the reader a lot of information–there’s even backstory on the Sarge–whether about the tank crew or the Germans. The German scenes are scary.

Brilliant work.

CREDITS

The Firefly and His Majesty, Part Two: Soldiers of the Reich; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Carlos Ezquerra; inker, Hector Ezquerra; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 4 (March 2010)

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Hey, it’s the sequel to Tankies. I didn’t even realize from the cover.

Well, I’m not sure it’s exactly a sequel to Tankies, rather another adventure of that tank crew. If I remember the original correctly, the plotting’s basically the same. The issue opens and closes with a different group of characters, here it’s some Nazis. Then we get to our crew.

The majority of the issue is talk, with the Sarge (he gets a last name here–Stiles–though he might have had it in the first series) talking to an American about an off-page tank attack (the Germans from the first scene hit a column of American tanks).

We get a brief introduction to the newest member of the tank crew and a flashback catching us up on their recent activities.

Ezquerra handles Ennis’s more humorous moments, as always, beautifully.

It’s a strong start for the arc.

CREDITS

The Firefly and His Majesty, Part One: Welcome to the Fatherland; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Carlos Ezquerra; inker, Hector Ezquerra; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 3 (February 2010)

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Well, Ennis gets to the rough stuff here. But he still handles it calmly and affably for the beginning, then once the event occurs, it’s rather touching. To this point, Battlefields has been pretty extraordinary and different, whether in plot details or characters. This arc is the first one where Ennis just sits down and tells a traditional war story–not too traditional, of course, the dead guy didn’t have a girlfriend to cry over him.

It’s a very sure piece of writing. Ennis always seems sure of himself, but this arc is a little different. There’s no hook. There’s nothing different about it to get a reader’s interest. It feels very comfortable and not in a bad way. Makes me wish Battlefields was a monthly.

However, something’s off with Holden this issue. His faces are too broad, which hurts during the two talking heads scenes.

Still, a great comic.

CREDITS

Happy Valley, Part Three: Who’ll Come on Ops in a Wimpy with Me?; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Paul J. Holden; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Battlefields 2 (January 2010)

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Ennis continues with the mellow. This story arc continues to be calm and genial. It’s nice–the new captain flirts with the barmaid, the command decides to let the socially graceless Masher continue with his behaviors unhindered (he farts when he gets excited).

I still don’t know how to talk about the issue because so little of conversation-worthy note occurs. It’s just a good comic. Crew has a mission get rained out, they go drinking, they have another mission, they suffer some friendly fire, they make it home all right thanks to the captain. Obviously, if the captain’s doing something amazing each issue to save them, the implication is next issue he’ll fail.

Again, I’m a little at a loss for words. The writing is strong–Ennis reins in the humor a lot (he can go wild with these types)–and the art’s excellent.

It’s not dramatic just lovely.

CREDITS

Happy Valley, Part Two: In Pomgolia; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Paul J. Holden; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.