Battlefields 6 (May 2013)

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…

Battlefields 5 (March 2013)

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…

Battlefields 4 (February 2013)

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…

Battlefields 3 (January 2013)

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…

Battlefields 2 (December 2012)

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…

Battlefields 1 (November 2012)

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…

Battlefields 9 (August 2010)

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…

Battlefields 8 (July 2010)

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,…

Battlefields 7 (June 2010)

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…

Battlefields 6 (May 2010)

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…

Battlefields 5 (April 2010)

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…

Battlefields 4 (March 2010)

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…

Battlefields 3 (February 2010)

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…

Battlefields 2 (January 2010)

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…

Battlefields 1 (January 2010)

Ennis is off to a fine start with the second round of Battlefields, this time covering Australian fliers during World War II. All Battlefields are WWII, aren’t they? Anyway, it’s a fine start, with some nice humor at the end. It’s a pretty straightforward story, which might be why he’s opening with it–a solid war story. In fact, it’s so straightforward, so solid, I’m really not sure where it’s going. There’s nothing revolutionary to it so far. It’s about a rookie pilot joining an experienced bomber crew. Ennis narrates the story through the pilot’s letters back home to his father, which maybe…

Battlefields: The Tankies 3 (July 2009)

The final issue of Tankies is even better than I remembered and maybe even imagined. I’m really glad I forgot the ending–Ennis gives it two finishes, one for the tank company, one for the colonel at command–and it’s just perfect. What the colonel’s ending does is a little different–Tankies is not just a standalone story, it’s Ennis’s story about the men in tank companies…. But packaging it in Tankies, with the humor, with the fourteen-hour present action for three issues, Ennis never gets sentimental (there’s no dedication, for example). Instead, he simply presents the situation of the tank companies and goes with…

Battlefields: The Tankies 2 (May 2009)

Oh, it’s lovely. Ennis has something of a narrative tree going here–he has his main story with the tankies, but then he’s got command’s story. Command’s story has a little to do with the tankies, but not much. It has it’s own subplot. I think maybe half the issue has nothing to do, immediately, with the story of the tank company. So, instead, there’s the large picture of the situation and then this one tank moving through it, with Ennis moving back and forth. Tank stories–the ones I’ve read or the films I’ve seen–are intimate, because it’s just a handful of guys…

Battlefields: The Tankies 1 (April 2009)

I’ve always claimed The Tankies as Ennis’s best of the Battlefields (first series, anyway). I didn’t really remember why. Then I read the first issue again. Ennis sets up the story as a mission story. Maybe not even a mission, maybe just a part of a mission story. The present action is continuous. He opens the comic with a page of text explaining the situation to the reader. The white text on black alone foreshadows dread. However, Ezquerra’s art is funny. His character expressions–and Ennis is dealing with British stereotypes for the most part, so there are lots of them–are simply hilarious.…

Battlefields: Dear Billy 3 (March 2009)

It’s a tad… Victorian, isn’t it? I mean, it’s an excellent issue and a decent close to Dear Billy, but it’s just too confined. With the whole letter to Billy thing–Ennis either has to use it as a letter to the guy or a narrative device. So he uses it as a narrative device. A delivery system for the story, which it’s not properly equipped to do. It’s a letter, it’s meant to be read. The letter doesn’t open this issue and maybe it needed to be present again, from the start. Ennis’s spends the first two issues expanding the world of…

Battlefields: Dear Billy 2 (February 2009)

I can’t remember how Dear Billy ends. Even reading another issue, I can’t remember. I spent a while, in the back of my head, anticipating Ennis’s cliffhanger. Three issue limited, he’d have to cliffhang… but he doesn’t. In fact, for a comic featuring a nurse killing three–wait, four–Japanese POWs, the most sensational thing in the comic is the two gay American intelligence guys. It’s a very strange scene, practically a domestic scene between the protagonist, Carrie, and her beau, the titular Billy, out with some friends. Even when Carrie figures out a way to meet up with Billy on the front, it’s…

Battlefields: Dear Billy 1 (January 2009)

I’ve forgotten most of the details to Battlefields, which is nice as it turns out. I then can remember things, anticipate them as I read, makes the experience seem richer. It’s a rather rich experience to begin with–Ennis’s writing here, from a first person female narrator, puts his contemporaries to shame. As usual. But I didn’t remember the specifics of Dear Billy, not until the last few pages did I remember what will unfold. So I got to read the issue both raw and a little aware. It makes for a fine experience. There’s everything to recommend the book–Snejbjerg alone makes it…

Battlefields: The Night Witches 3 (January 2009)

Here Ennis plays with having two protagonists, the expectations that arrangement has on the reader. Play might be the wrong word because play suggests it might be fun. Ennis doesn’t do it for fun, he does it to get a surprising ending. See, the series has always had the two protagonists juxtaposed, but it’s only ever had one narrator. The reason for that inequality becomes clear this issue. The issue opens an extended period after the first two and Ennis takes a few pages to establish the revised ground situation. It–and the snow of the Russian winter–make this issue feel fresh, like…

Battlefields: The Night Witches 2 (November 2008)

Juxtaposing the two stories–the young male Nazi soldier and the young female Russian flier–might seem like a standard approach, but it produces some unexpected things. The German fears the Russians, who the reader sees most personified as this young woman. She’s cheerful, mostly chipper and very good at her job. Her comrades are similar, caring about each other; she even has a flirtation with her CO, who originally didn’t even like the idea of female fliers. Among his countrymen, the young German doesn’t have anything similar. The Nazis only really bond at the idea of gang raping a Russian girl. They’re the…

Battlefields: The Night Witches 1 (October 2008)

I don’t know if I appreciated Braun enough the first time I read this series. He can do the complex expressions (ranging from unsure Nazis to zealot ones, not to mention the Russian female fliers who feel alienated and overwhelmed) and all the action and all the equipment. He adds a sense of innocent to his characters (and humor) and really makes Night Witches work. Ennis concentrates on setup here–but what’s so nice about that setup is how Ennis doesn’t cheap out in the end. He introduces the female fliers and shows a bit of their initial troubles, then let’s them get…