War Stories #26 (January 2018)

War Stories #26

War Stories #26 is the last issue. Ennis and Aira go out strong. Most of the issue is a dramatic action sequence. Ennis has to keep it interesting, Aira has to keep it moving. Both succeed. Thanks to the omnipresent narration, Ennis is able to lay groundwork for the finale. Even though there’s still one last reveal.

Or maybe not last reveal but first. This story, “Flower of My Heart,” is some of Ennis’s most saccharine, but most humanistic work. The character study of the protagonist as he watches this foreign country change around him–as Italy goes from being fascist to Allied occupied–and how war changes or doesn’t change him.

Because protagonist Robin is a warmonger. Only he’s not. He’s forever scarred with what he’s seen, but he’s still naive. He only can exist for the one thing. Or can he?

It’s an excellent finish. War Stories has had its ups and downs, but Ennis really brought it together for the last two stories. And, while Aira is rushed with the talking heads here, he’s got the emotions of the characters down. Their faces, rough or not, intensely convey their feelings.

I’m going to miss this comic. Well, War Stories but not so much #26; I resent Ennis when he makes me cry because I know he knows he’s doing it.

CREDITS

The Flower of My Heart, Part Four; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

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War Stories #25 (October 2017)

War Stories #25

Ennis’s gentle story continues. Robin, the British WWII flier, reflects on his life while flying missions in Italy. Italy’s just capitulated, the Allies have taken Rome, everything’s going fine. Except Robin doesn’t have anything else going on except the flying.

His Italian pal, whose life is fairly destroyed, maintains a more positive outlook. He encourages Robin to try to meet a woman, which Robin does. So a bunch of it is nervous Robin preparing for his date.

Aira’s art is rushed, but he takes the time on the expressions in close-up. There’s a very stylized feel to the talking heads scenes, the characters’ expressions, how much the visuals focus on them and nothing else. Some of it is probably just less backgrounds, but the emphasis works. Ennis is doing a character study, after all.

It’s good. Ennis doing this non-battle oriented War Stories arc has excellent result.

CREDITS

The Flower of My Heart, Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 24 (June 2017)

War Stories #24

Ennis gets downright poetic with this issue. Well, his protagonist gets downright poetic, but Ennis takes the comic along with him. Aira gets beautiful skies to draw, while the protagonist remembers what his new drinking buddy–an Italian enemy flier turned ally and liasion–talks about. It’s detached from the war, but intricately part of it. I’m getting rather curious where Ennis is going with it; it’s a lovely comic.

CREDITS

Flower of My Heart, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 23 (April 2017)

War Stories #23

Ennis sticks with British fliers and World War II–and four issue arcs. And it works out. The setting this time is Tunisia and some Brits taking over a previously Italian (and German) camp. It still has some Italian officers as prisoners of war, giving Ennis a chance to develop character relationships between opposing sides. There are some Germans around, of course, and not all the Brits are as civilized as the gentlemen pilot; presumably there will be some drama. Aira continues to do balance the book better between talking heads and illustrated war machinery. He does particularly well in the desolate setting. War Stories’s uptick might not survive the whole arc, but it certainly isn’t showing any signs of failing yet.

CREDITS

Flower of My Heart, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 22 (January 2017)

War Stories #22

Aira draws the arc’s “lead”–ranking officer, basically–four or five different ways this issue. Down to him having different color hair at one point (and bushy blond eyebrows instead of pencil thin brown ones). But it doesn’t matter, because Ennis’s script is good. He goes for repeated, honest gut punches. It’s awesome. And Aira’s solid enough on the rest. War Stories is finally great.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part Four: Down in the Drink; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 21 (November 2016)

War Stories #21

Aside from some rushed art on the talking heads–but still great composition from Aira–and the romantic subplot not paying off, this War Stories arc is pretty fantastic. Ennis is comfortable with the characters and the setting. He looks at the fliers and their fears more than anything else.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part Three: The War Effort; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 20 (September 2016)

War Stories #20

It’s another excellent issue. Ennis has got a lot of exposition in the dialogue but there’s no better place for it than a war comic; it’s not just for his narrative, it’s for the history too. Script’s steadily paced and Aira’s art flows quite well this issue.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part Two: The War Effort; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 19 (June 2016)

War Stories #19

Whenever Garth Ennis does WWII and he does something with the UK, I assume it’s a little bit of a capitulation. What does one expect from Ennis except WWII and UK war comics? I mean, really. There’s even squabbling among the airmen based on one not being from the same part of the UK. It’s exactly what one would expect.

And it’s pretty darn all right. He doesn’t do much with the characters–thankfully Tomas Aira gives them different enough uniforms and body types, but it’s not like Ennis is throwing a lot of character development in. He’s playing for the scene. The draw is the subject matter, which is the RAF putting together their night fighter squadron. Ennis even opens it with a text introduction to the era.

It works. It all works out. Aira’s fine on the airplanes and his composition for the talking heads scenes are getting better. War comics need good composition for briefing sequences. It’s a lot to juggle; Aira doesn’t have the detail on faces and the coloring is still War Stories atrocious–I really hope Ennis has it in some contract if these things catch up commercially, they’ll get recolored–but it’s the best first issue of a War Stories arc the series has had in ages.

It’s also a four-parter, instead of the traditional three. The cynic in me wonders if it’s a drawer script Ennis has had around for a while.

CREDITS

Vampire Squadron, Part One: A Barrel of Guinness; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories 18 (April 2016)

War Stories #18

Ennis pushes through to the end of his gunboat arc and it’s a bit of a chore. Aira doesn’t do well with the second half of the issue, which is where there’s all the action. It’s not exciting action; these characters aren’t sympathetic, they’re obnoxious and annoying and intentionally so. It’s so strange to see Ennis go out of his way to make these characters so unlikable. I wish there were some deeper commentary to it and there may be, but it doesn’t come across.

The strangest thing about the issue is Aira’s art. Not the stuff on the boat, which is confusing and there’s a couple panels where the side of a guy’s head disappears, but some of the long shots in the early part of the issue. If it weren’t so poorly computer colored–War Stories and its digital shading for perspective are the pits–and if it were in black and white, there might be something to it. Aira’s shapes, in the distance, have presence.

I wish someone knew what to do with this comic book. It doesn’t seem like anyone–Avatar, Ennis, Aira–have the slightest idea what War Stories should be doing. It’s a shame.

CREDITS

Send a Gunboat, Part Three: Commence, Commence, Commence; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

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