A Year of Cool Comics - Day 12

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here's the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Garth Ennis' War Story series of one-shots, the precursors to his current Battlefields series of mini-series at Dynamite (for simplicity's sake, I'm just looking at the first wave of four one-shots released over four months at the end of 2001/beginning of 2002 - the second wave of four one-shots was in 2003).


In late 2001/early 2002, DC Comics' Vertigo line gave Garth Ennis the opportunity to pursue one of his biggest joys in the world of comics - telling, well, you know, war stories.

Each extra-sized one-shot paired Ennis with a noted artist and they each told stories about World War II (in the second series of one-shots, at least one other war got a turn) from various perspectives.

The first one, Johann's Tiger, had artwork by Chris Weston and Gary Erskine, and told the the tale of a German tank and its soldiers during the invasion of Russia.

The gist of the story is that Johann (the head of the tank, which is the "Tiger" of the tale) decides that his men do not deserve to die in a war that Germany is bound to lose and a war that Johann now realizes that Germany DESERVES to lose. So they basically "quit." His plan is to find a group of American soldiers and surrender, but only his men - you see, while his men might be "innocent," Johann knows that he is not...

Of course, things do not go the way he planned.

It's a stark tale, full of sacrifices and loss.

D-Day Dodgers, with art by John Higgins, tells the story of the divisions fighting their way up Italy while the Allied forces are invading the beaches of Normandy. A story made its way through the ranks that Lady Astor referred to these troops (including battalions from Ireland and Scotland as well as England) as "D-Day Dodgers."

The absurdity of the statement hung over the air of these men...

Ennis can do such marvelous work with slow burns.

Dave Gibbons draws Screaming Eagles, about a Paratrooper division at the end of the war who find themselves so decimated that there are only four men left from the original force that landed in France during D-Day.

While reconnoitering for a house where a visiting general can stay, these four men come across a fleeing Nazi who is coming from an opulent mansion. The four men hatch a plot to stay in the mansion for a few days. Some of the men argue that they should take some of the riches there for themselves...

Ennis brilliantly intersperses the whole story with the depiction of how all the other members of the original division are killed.

Gibbons does great work on this story.

David Lloyd, though, perhaps does the best job out of all the four artists (and they're ALL quite excellent) with the haunting one-shot, Nightingale, about a British Merchant Marine ship given some terrible orders...

How brutal is that?

Lloyd's ghost-like artwork fits the story incredibly well. These men are essentially walking (or floating) dead, and it is just a matter of time until that is made a brutal reality.

All told, Ennis does his typical excellent job of mixing violence, black humor and strong characterizations to deliver an engrossing read.

The first wave was all collected in War Stories Volume 1...

Maybe I'll come back and spotlight "Volume 2" later this year!!

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