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Posted on Jul 28, 2007 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Enemy Ace – Comic Review

By Paul Glasser

cover.jpgComic Review: Enemy Ace. Publisher: DC Comics, Issue: Trade paper back 2003
Writer: Garth Ennis, Artist: Christian Alamy

War in Heaven transforms Hans von Hammer from a 1960s pulp hero into a deep and complex character.

Von Hammer, known as Enemy Ace, was originally a young fighter pilot in World War I. However, he is drawn from his post-war retirement in a Bavarian castle to help his longtime friend and comrade Peter Rittmeister train and lead young Luftwaffe pilots over Leningrad in 1942 and 1943.

Now 46 years old, Von Hammer is a cold, calculating killer. However, he soon clashes with Hauptmann Engles, a devoted Nazi with little flying skill. Aside from Von Hammer, Rittmeister and Engles, few other characters are notable, although iconic war hero Sgt. Rock makes a brief appearance in the final pages.

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The trade paper back also includes a reprint of War Stories #139, a classic Enemy Ace story drawn by Joe Kubert. In this story, Von Hammer faces off against The Hangman, a British ace who challenges him to a duel in the skies over Crecy. It gives the reader an excellent opportunity to compare the classic Von Hammer with a new, more human, character.

The re-imagined Von Hammer spurns dramatic expository dialogue, avoids overly dramatic actions and disdains exaggerated poses. Instead of standing up straight like an iron hero, Von Hammer now frequently slouches, having been worn down by what he has seen and done.

Once stalwart, Von Hammer becomes deeply conflicted. Dedicated to serving with honor, he is unable to reconcile his philosophy with the reality of total mechanized war on a global scale. Over time, Von Hammer’s steely resolve is eroded by atrocities and war crimes he cannot stomach.

He must come to terms with his own deadly instincts, represented by a massive black wolf. In World War I, Von Hammer and the wolf would hunt together on the ground. He can also draw on the animals’ power during combat, but it comes with a high cost. Will Von Hammer be able to break away from his instincts, or will he be haunted by the black wolf forever?

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The story is divided into two books, and the artistic tone is different for each section. In part one, Von Hammer and his story are depicted in detail, with attention paid to each crease in his uniform and each rivet on his Bf 109 fighter. The combat is bloody and realistic as men fight and die over Leningrad 1942-1943.

The second book focuses on the final days of war in Europe during 1945, as Von Hammer commands a Me 262 fighter wing. With the advent of the jet age, the images have become more clean, sleek and Spartan. Conditions on the ground have also become more austere, as have the artistic tone. With supplies, fuel, ammunition and spare parts in short supply, Von Hammer has been reduced to eating cat meat, which is reflected in the austere artistic style.

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