Reviews

Review in Journey Planet 50

The Hugo Award-winning fanzine, Journey Planet, is back with its 50th issue, this time focusing on the British comic, Battle Picture Weekly. This issue’s guest editor is Battle fan extraordinaire, Paul Trimble, joining the regular co-editors Christopher J Garcia, James Bacon and Michael Carroll.

I’ve a review in the fanzine of ‘Hellman: At the Twilight of the Reich’, a Garth Ennis story, drawn by Mike Dorey and lettered by Rob Steen, from the recent Action 2020 Special published by Rebellion.

Here’s the blurb about the contents:

Forty-five years ago the war comic Battle Picture Weekly crashed down into the British comics scene with such an impact that the aftershocks are still being felt today.

Now, in a special double-sized issue, the award-winning fanzine Journey Planet takes a look back at this fan-favourite — and sometimes controversial — comic, and presents all-new in-depth interviews and features with some of its top artists, writers and editors, as well as never-before-published artwork.

Join Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, Cam Kennedy, John Wagner, Alan Hebden, Mike Dorey, Steve MacManus and more — as well as fans like Ann Gry and today’s comics creators including Maura McHugh and Garth Ennis — as they discuss the impact and legacy of Battle and its stories, from the sublime Charley’s War to the subversive Hellman of Hammer Force.

I never read Battle, as that kind of comic rarely appealed to me. When it comes to fictional stories that feature violence or war I prefer them a step removed from reality, which is why when I’m playing video games I’m happy to kill zombies or get involved in giant space battles, but I don’t enjoy renacting combat situations from our recent history. My grandfather used to tell grisly stories from the War of Independence in Ireland (he was a child at the time), and I’m a history buff, so I’ve no illusions about the realities of war, even if it is a ‘just’ cause.

The funny thing is I can watch lots of horror films or violent sf action flicks and not feel upset (except maybe by bad dialogue!), but once it’s based on true life wars and features people who lived and breathed and endured these horrific events, I have to brace myself…

Yet to prep for the review of Ennis’s story I read through an archive of the old Hellman of Hammer Force stories, which was a popular reoccurring storyline in Action (and later Battle). It featured the problematic Major Kurt Hellman, a German Panzer commander during World War II. He first appeared on the pages of Action in 1976, originally written by Gerry Finley-Day and drawn with terrific verve by Mike Dorey.

You can read my review in Journey Planet, but I’ll summarise by saying that Ennis deals straight on with the difficulties of war comics that might appear to glamorise combat, especially one that is giving a vision of war from the German perspective in World War II.

As a comic book writer Ennis has my admiration for what he achieved in ten pages, and how wonderful to see Mike Dorey working on this character again.

You can read an interview with both of them on the Rebellion web site.

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