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Posted on Jan 12, 2007 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Battler Briton – Comic Review

By Paul Glasser

battler1.jpgComic Review: Battler Briton
Publisher: Wildstorm, Writer: Garth Ennis, Artist: Colin Wilson, Cover art: Garry Leach, Issue: 5 of 5

This month saw the explosive conclusion to the Battler Britton: Bloody Good Show miniseries.

The comics documented the heroic actions of the ace fighter pilot RAF Commander Robert Britton, leader of a British Beaufighter squadron. The character was originally created during the 1950s and appeared in Air Ace Pictures series. Writer Garth Ennis revived the character because he wanted to inspire interest in the old Battler Britton comic collections.

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“It would a damn shame to let them rot,” Ennis wrote in the afterword to issue one.

Ennis and artist Colin Wilson present the Britton character in a modern light, with crisp clear illustrations and a strong personality. The art creates an atmosphere that is grittier and more realistic. The fighters show the wear and tear of battle, as do their pilots and ground crew. This series does not sugar-coat the reality of war, or present larger-than life heroes.

Each panel on every page is appealing to the eye, especially during combat scenes. The most striking images come from inside the cockpits of stricken planes. The agony on pilots’ faces is obvious, and the flickering flames and oily smoke create a hellish scene. But, Wilson makes even the most barren desert images interesting, by capturing every contour in the waves of sand.

Although somewhat stereotypical, the main characters are vibrant. The relationship between Battler and the American commander, Major Gilhooley is fairly predictable, but it serves its purpose well. Britton is strong and stoic, while Gilhooley is abrasive and quick to act; however, over time, the two erstwhile allies grow to respect each other.

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The plot contains the expected cliché’s, such as conflict between the more experienced British veterans and the brash, inexperienced Americans. The British flyers inevitably refer to the Americans as “our Italians.”

However, the comics do provide insight into one of the more obscure theaters of war: air combat in North Africa. Britton and his pilots have been instructed to reinforce and support an American squadron at an airfield behind German lines.

There are the inevitable learning pains as the Yanks go through their baptism by fire. The Americans fly P-40 Warhawks and must provide cover for the Beaufighters as they engage and destroy German ground targets. Death comes quick and violently as pilots tangle with the experienced and vicious Luftwaffe aces.

The final climatic battle over the sands of North Africa highlight the terrible price that comes with war. The sky is filled with burning airplanes and the ground is littered with smoldering carcasses of destroyed vehicles.

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