ComicScene Review: Battle

For many years the most popular genre for comics in the U.K. and Ireland was ‘War Comics’. So it’s not surprising that the return of ‘Battle’ from Rebellion got many comic fans very excited when it was announced.

I ‘dipped’ into war comics as a kid. There were moments when I was into Battle, Victor, Warlord or Commando – enticed by jump on issues and a pair of dog tags as a free gift! However I wasn’t a passionate collector of them and can hardly remember owning, if at all, an Annual, Summer Special or selling on my collection instead of giving them away at a jumble sale or second had bookshop. War just wasn’t my thing.

I think we are lucky to be getting any new titles from Rebellion and I do get excited by these one offs. I was curious about using the ‘Battle’ brand to sell ‘Sniper Elite’ and keen to see new stories featuring the ‘Rat Pack’ etc. with a roster of great comic creators. The big guns had been brought out for this 100 page comic assault!

On the whole it’s a great read. In fact I would say it is as good as the ‘Roy of the Rovers’ special and ‘Smash!’ The only thing that lets it down is perhaps a sense it could have been a tight 68 pages and what seen like filler pages makes it feel like a haphazard and an incomplete read. Less would have been more.

It opens with a Lew Stringer strip which, while funny, should have been his Sgt Shouty strip (appearing in the 77) which would have fitted in perfectly as a last page strip. There is also an out of place humour strip in Battle (Cockney Commandos) and whilst I love Tom Patterson’s work it does jar against the dramatic strips that surround it.

‘The Rat Pack’ by Garth Ennis and Keith Burns is a great opener. No disrespect to Keith but I’d love to have seen Carlos Ezquerra work in here. Instead we get an Ezquerra three page reprint from Battle. This is alongside a two page Ian Kennedy strip. I felt they have been added because you can’t have a war title without the two of these great artists appearing in it.

All the new stories are pretty solid. Alan Grant shows he is a master of a clear narrative in the ‘Face of the Enemy’ with some stunning art from Davide Fabbri (The second page is to die for) and colours from Domenico Neziti. Generally the story and art in all the stories is top notch with smatterings of humour, drama, action, gore and deep messages that you’d expect in a modern day war comic. There is a lot of dedication and passion in all the work.

I’m unsure why ‘Bravo, Black Lion’ by Alex De Campi and Glenn Fabry is edited in the way it is. I would have just taken out the word f**k at editing stage (it just seems out of place in the tone of the comic as a whole). It distracts from the story itself, which is a shame.

The smatterings of reprint pictures of planes (that will have Battle fans drooling) perhaps could have been put together with the two page ‘Scourge of the Skies’ and various black and white reprints from Ezquerra and Kennedy in a classic ‘Battle’ section (with that humour strip thrown in for good measure). It’s a small criticism of a solid read that just became a little choppy at times and this may have been a solution.

75 pages of superb new strips in a 100 page issue, wrapped up in a gorgeous cover, can’t be bad though. These comics are new but there is no hiding the fact they are also produced to entice your interest in reprint tiles such as Major Eazy, Sniper Elite, Operation Overlord, War Picture Library and Invasion 1984. So, if like me, you didn’t fight over war comics the first time round you have a second attack available at your local bookshop now.

If you love you war stories then don’t miss Commando writer Colin Maxwell writing Captain Commando in the ComicScene Annual 2021. Probably not one you will find in the history books

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