Battle was an English war comic published from 1975 to 1988. Its primary focus was illustrated, action packed, World War II stories. This collection of gritty war tales (also called Battle Picture Weekly, Battle Action Force, and Battle with Storm Force) featured some of Britain’s top comic book talent of the time but also left a strong impression on comic writing legend Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys) and he is now helping to bring back some of these stories in a new hard back volume entitled Garth Ennis Presents: Battle Classics!
Published by Titan Books, this 255 page volume of war stories reintroduces some of Battle’s best artist and stories including HMS Night Shade, The General Dies at Dawn, and a small collection illustrated short stories by artist Cam Kennedy. Here’s a complete synopsis:
New York Times bestselling writer Garth Ennis (…) selects his favourite stories from the seminal 1970s British boys’ comic Battle. Included in this fantastic volume for the very first time is the complete HMS Nightshade, and the never-before-reprinted The General Dies At Dawn. With insights and introductions by Ennis himself, this collection of war comic rarities is not to be missed!
Not only did Ennis, and Titan Books, put together a fantastic collection of stories from Battle, but they also collected a very unique look at World War II. The stories still have the intense action of the more prominent Battle comics, like Johnny Red, but in this collection readers are treated with a different take on the war!
We’re first introduced to the dangers the crew of a British escort vessel must face as it crosses the frigid waters of the north Atlantic. Written and illustrated by John Wagner and Mike Western, HMS Nightshade is the story of a mostly young, and inexperienced, men and their tour of duty that takes them across the English channel to places like Dunkirk, and icy Russia. All the while being hunted by deadly German U-boats! The story is fantastic not only for it’s wonderful art, and action, but also for the many characters who make up the ship’s crew. Their journey touches on the many stories of the heroes, cowards, and bastards that were thrown together to crew the ship. The bulk of this volume is dedicated to HMS Nightshade; However it’s worth every page for it’s beautiful illustrations and war time drama.
Following HMS Nightshade is The General Dies at Dawn by John Cooper and Alan Hebedn. A tale of a Nazi general about to be executed for treason who spends his last night on Earth re-telling his jailer of how he came to be one of Hitler’s top officers. Again, full of wonderful illustration work, but also a story about Nazi’s. It was a little hard to sympathize with a Nazi general (despite all his fights with the SS…) because, well he was a Nazi. He fought to support a dictator who was responsible for scores of millions of deaths which is a weird mix for a story that was trying to make him a hero. Yes, he was being executed by his own army, but only after winning many battles for an insane regime. ughhh.
Finally, the book ends with three short stories by Cam Kennedy. Though brief, these stories are wonderful tales of heroism that have an almost realistic quality to them. They are by far the best illustrated stories of the collection!
One of the best features of this book are the in depth interludes by Ennis between each section. Ennis provides an excellent historical, and creative, overview that primes the reader for each story. His enthusiasm for these comics can be felt and readers should be glad for his involvement in helping to bring these stories back into print. Hopefully we’ll get to see more Battle Classic stories form Titan and Ennis in the future.
Garth Ennis Presents: Battle Classics can be found at all major book stores or online at Titanbooks.com!