Garth Ennis’ “Battlefields” series continues on with “Happy Valley.” This series follows the adventures of the crew of a Vickers Wellington bomber set to make a run on Happy Valley, the area of Germany where industry was concentrated in the Ruhr region of Germany. The flight in this book takes place on February 11, 1942. Our narrator, and guide through this issue, is Ken Harding, the replacement pilot for the bomber aircraft dubbed “B-Beer,” a craft flown for the Royal Australian Air Force.
With the prototypical letter home to set the stage and introduce us to some of the players in this story, Ennis lights this story up with the unapologetic characterization of the crew, from the boisterous and confrontational Masher to the main protagonist, Ken Harding. Ennis doesn’t spend equal time on all of the crew, but if you were introduced to a lot like this, you wouldn’t spend time equally among them either. Some characters are more pronounced in the language, traits, and actions, and that comes through clearly here. At no point, however, does Ennis provide more than a cursory description for most of these characters, leaving the reader with the understanding that it is most likely best not to get too attached to any of these characters since anyone can became a casualty when there is a war on.
Holden’s art is gritty and rough, as befits a war comic. More than a few times there are spots where the art looks like the early work of Tim Sale, particularly when Harding is meeting the rest of his crew for the first time. Details sell the artwork for a reality based book like this. Holden also frequently uses shadows to infer the weight, depth, or harshness of objects or settings, a style that works well with this story.
Dynamite has a good series here with stories that Ennis truly seems passionate about. While it is hard to emotionally invest in these characters due to their lack of history, there is no denying these characters are human and can be related to or empathized with. For those looking for a war comic fix, you certainly cannot go wrong with Ennis’ series.