In Review: War Stories #1

A great opening issue whose story and visuals will pull you in and move you.

The cover: Several B-17s are receiving heavy fire from above and below. This is a great cover that sucked me in instantly. Imagine my surprise after picking it up to find it was a wraparound cover. Beautiful illustration by Matt Martin with Digikore Studios. This looks more like a print than the cover of a comic book. Overall grade: A

The story: The book opens with Leonard Wetmore narrating his trek from his home to New York at the age of nineteen, having been drafted out of college for the war effort. Garth Ennis begins this book in the best way: no war action, just the sights the young man sees as he makes his way to England. He’s aware of the horrors of the war, but he knows it will be nothing he’s expected. Pages 2 and 3 have him arriving in the Big Apple and then leaving by boat. It’s hard not to be reading ominous lines, such as in the final panel of Page 2 or the final panel of 3. The double-paged spread of 4 and 5 is the dramatic punch that shows where our protagonist is headed, but there are other things for him to do first. I haven’t read much fiction set in WWII and there are certain things I was expecting. I thought that the scene that starts on Page 11 was too much, but it doesn’t go on for too long, and will most likely lead to other things for our hero. I was very pleased by Wetmore’s introduction to his crew. Such an introduction must take place, but Ennis had it happen in a unexpected locale and the dialogue was very well done. Page 9 has perfect, concise text that should be posted in every history class that covers the war. The action sequence of the book was an absolute shocker. My concerns about this story, and title, being rote were completely thrown away with Pages 16 – 20. The final two pages of the issue were a great moment to show and develop character. The final panel was brutal. Wow. This was a really good read. Overall grade: A 

The art: The visuals on this book are solid. Matt Martin has got to deal completely in realism: no caped capers in this book. Based on his cover, I was feeling very optimistic on what the interiors of this comic would look like. I was very happy with what I got. The first page is a solid introduction to Leonard, with the first panel having him looking out of train window. The second panel shows his family’s reaction to his leaving. The final, and last, panel on the page shows how alone he is. Great visual set up to the overload that is New York City. Love the crowds (and their clothing!), the top of Page 3 was great, the middle on that page super, and all that was missing was the music in the final panel. Wow. I couldn’t think of a better send off. Then Pages 4 and 5 are a complete shocker. Terrific layout of every element of this image and its contrast with the previous three pages is perfection. The next three pages are a great transition, and then Page 9…It bares worth repeating: this belongs in a every classroom. Gorgeous. Now should a reader think this book is filled with illustrations copied directly from photographs, Pages 16 – 19 are obviously original because of their content and they absolutely floored me. This was as compelling and shocking as anything encountered in film or television. Martin has gained me as a fan with this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: Also looking sharp are the colors on this by Digikore Studios. There were several options for this group: realism, black and white to age the imagery, or selected coloring to put a dramatic style into the work. They rightly chose realism and the book looks good because of it. The first three pages are subdued colors that echo the lead’s journey. Everything is dim, foreshadowing how his former life is going to be gone forever. The skylines that are created are beautiful. I’m in love with the coloring with the second and third panel on Page 3. I’ve been to New York and I wish I had seen colors like that. Pages 4 and 5 are crystal clear in colors, hiding nothing in the savagery that’s being released. The skies in this book are always perfect. The action sequence is an absolute fright in realistic colors. And as much as I enjoyed looking at them, I was glad the horror of the reds and yellows were quickly gone. Outstanding work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration and dialogue (the same font) and a scream were created by Kurt Hathaway. I was hoping to see some sort of variety between the narration and dialogue, and have radio transmissions at least be in italics, but there’s no variation. The lettering tells the story well, but it’s very one note. Overall grade: B-

The final line: A great opening issue whose story and visuals will pull you in and move you. I can’t wait for more. Overall grade: A-

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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