Johnny Red has a strange organization to its messy narrative. The issue opens with a history lesson–in present-day monologue–about the Night Witches and how they figure into the series’s ground situation. It goes on for pages. It goes on for so long I forgot the book was about Johnny Red and instead thought Ennis was doing an impromptu Night Witches fill-in.
But he isn’t. Because after telling readers to look at the bunnies on the left, Ennis then spins them right by about ninety degrees and tells them to look at something else, something entirely new to them. And then he does it again at the end of the issue. There are three big things going on here and at least two subplots. Johnny Red is Ennis doing an edifying comic. He’s assuming his readers aren’t familiar with the subject matter and he’s teaching them about it.
At the same time, for all the traditional Johnny Red fans–if traditional Johnny Red fans are a thing–Ennis is breezy enough with the history lesson not to condescend. He’s showing his street cred as a WWII storyteller. It’s simultaneously showing off and being humble. It’s a great approach.
Johnny Red might be Ennis’s best WWII comic in a while.
Witches Over Stalingrad; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Keith Burns; colorist, Jason Wordie; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jess Burton and Steve White; publisher, Titan Comics.