September has been a good month for Irish comics and their creators.
For me, it started at Baltimore Comic Con. Garth Ennis’s latest instalment of his Battlefields war comics was on display at the Dynamite table, and the story of hard working tank men is moving onto the next major conflict of the 20th century (and one often overlooked and forgotten by many): Korea.
The table was for more than display and the queue that snaked away from the Dynamite stand was phenomenal, and there at the table, with a huge stack of pens, Garth Ennis was undoubtedly one of the stars of this show, affable, friendly and welcoming.
I got a chance to look at the forthcoming Tankies and was impressed with the Ezquerra team on the art side of things, and the accuracy of the Gary Leach Centurion Tank on the cover is amazing. Sergeant Stiles and the Tankies are again in battle, but they have moved on. Gone are the Churchill and the Sherman with a 17 pounder gun and we get to welcome the Centurion, a tank of the Second World War, just about allowing Britain to catch up with the Germans in time to see no action. As I flicked through the proof pages, it did indeed look like an exciting end to this series and the artwork too is drawn to a fantastically accurate standard. History has shown that comics can tell war stories especially well, and Ennis is the master.
The Boys has rushed to its end and I feel like I did in the nineties with Preacher, pleased. Here again Ennis has produced a body of work that is one story, feeling unique in the comic book world, an interesting satirical take on super heroes, allowing one to peer into a murky dystopian world with companies and super powers corrupting power and yet grounded in brilliantly devised and portrayed characters. For over six years, I am devoted to a comic. Differently paced, possessing humour, vulgarity, brutality and in many sense a horror, yet overwhelmingly, entertainingly good fun, and now this week (as I start writing), today on Thursday the 4th of October, the story came to a satisfying and rewarding end. After Preacher, one would never know how Ennis might go, and I was pleased with this ending, it felt just right.
Another comic that looks like good fun but is only starting is Jennifer Blood: First Blood. I’ve been enjoying the Ennis and subsequent Ewing run on the ongoing comic and was delighted and also apprehensive when I heard that 2000 AD bright spark Mike Carroll would have the writing reins of this miniseries.
Carroll has been proving his worth with extremely strong Judge Dredd stories, somehow finding new and exciting angles with the well established character, avoiding aping what has gone before yet giving Mega City stories that seem to fit in very well to the existing lore. The US move is not always an easy one. For many writers whom I liked, the stories seemed to lack the vision that their UK work had. Not so with this first issue.
Being a ‘year one’ story there is obviously a pacing requirement so that much of the history up to that stage is made clear while also ensuring that we recognise the familiar character or that any situations and incidents work well to credibly alter and shape the character into the one we know.
Carroll succeeds in the first issue that was released in September, and I was impressed with the story. Technically it was much more adventurous than I had expected, with the narrative being told as a letter, not uncommon but unexpected here, and the writing was good. We get to see Jennifer as she once was, start to learn why she is the way she is and also find her embroiled in revenge upon those who have in a way made her what she is, despite her determination to not be what they are. Mike Mayhew’s cover is only gorgeous and the interior artwork of Igor Vitorino is also to a high standard. For a first issue of a five-issue miniseries, I was well impressed and pleased. I have high hopes now for the rest.
ERF turned up on the doorstep this week. This is a Kickstarter project by Garth Ennis and Rob Steen, who did the well known Flanimals book with Ricky Gervais and I am pleased I supported this. My young nephew now has a book that lists me as a supporter, and I have to say I am really pleased that it is such a pleasant and funny story for children. It’s hard to know what makes a caterpillar or a small train engine so hugely popular, but Figwillop, KWAAAH!, the Booper, and Erf himself have a good time.
On a more serious note, The War Against Empire, an historical comic telling the story of the War of Independence in Ireland, has been released by O’Brien Press with art and story by Gerry Hunt, who previously did Blood Upon the Rose: Easter 1916 – the Rebellion that Set Ireland Free. Here we start in North Wales, directly after the Easter Rising of 1916 and see those imprisoned in Frongoch who went on to form some of the leadership of the War of Independence against Britain. The artwork here posses an accuracy, especially in characters, that is good, while the detail to the historical aspects is incredible. The War itself is a terribly dark part of British history where honour and morals are set to one side in a desperate attempt to subjugate a people. I have read both Barry and Breen’s account of their time and felt that this comic gives an adequately coherent and accurate overview of this period in Ireland’s bloody history.
While continuing the war theme, League of Volunteers issue 3 is firmly a fictional work, brought out by Atomic Diner in Dublin. This comic, set in 1940s Ireland during the time of the Second World War, or ‘Emergency’ as it was known in Ireland, is written by Robert Curley with artwork by Barry Keegan. We join the League, the Druid Ruadhan, Glimmerman and Archer, Blood Rose, Emerald and Black Scorpion in thick battle with the Celtic god of war, Bochanach, who has called upon his ancient evil demonic force. The League, under pressure, call upon the forces of good and summon the Fianna and their leader, Fionn mac Cumhaill to help them in this fierce fight.
It’s a wonderful comic. Without doubt, comparisons will be made with Hellboy or Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but its uniqueness, reliance upon good, rich historical research, and interesting mix of original and mythical characters all makes it stand on its own right. I really enjoyed this third instalment and end to the current arc, but loved how the history of the League is revealed, using documents to illustrate the past, adding a nice density onto the story. I hope that more comes from this team, both fictional and Dublin-based.
Finally, word has come through about a new project, from writer Maura McHugh, no stranger to readers of this blog. Twisted Fairy Tales with images by Jane Laurie is a selection of twenty classic fairy tales, darkly retold by McHugh for the current book buying public, and will be available from US publisher Barron’s in February 2013.