Rating: 4.5/5 – Perfect Mix of Back-Story and WWII Action.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.
I wasn’t reading British comics in the 1970s, but what I have seen of them long after the fact when reprinted for a US audience, it was a heady time with a great variety of action and adventure far surpassing what was seen in the US at that time (which was dominated by super-heroes). Johnny Red first saw print in 1977 in the 100th issue of a weekly comic called Battle. This compelling update to the WWII ace from the 70s is brought to us by writer Garth Ennis, no stranger to war comics, and Keith Burns, who fans might remember from a couple of ‘The Boys’ mini-series and Ex-Con, published by Dynamite.
Johnny Red is a fascinating WWII comic because it focuses on a facet of the war I’ve not seen a lot about before: the battle on the Eastern Front between Germany and Russia. Normally the Eastern Front is something mentioned as a bad place for a German soldier to be sent in a story predominantly focusing on the war in Europe. Johnny Red is the story of a British pilot who manages to get himself attached to a Russian fighter squadron and is fighting Nazis in the Russian skies. Ennis wrapped me into the story elegantly by starting out in the present day with an American purchasing a salvaged Hawker Hurricane with an eye towards restoring it to full flight capability. As part of the restoration process he wants learn the history of the plane, which gives Ennis the opportunity to weave a lot of information into the narrative without it feeling forced. And the art by Keith Burns was a wonderful match for the story. His scratchy/gritty style, attention to detail, and dynamic layouts of the planes in flight really gave me a sense of place and I felt the motion of the aerial combat scene. I’m looking forward to more!
Garth Ennis does an excellent job providing the back-story I needed to know to fully enjoy the comic. By the time he segues to WWII Stalingrad I was totally brought up to speed on the role of the Hawker Hurricane in WWII and how a British flyer could end up in Russia. This was an immediate add to my pull list and is highly recommended for any fan of war comics. Ask your comic shop to get you a copy of this debut and add it to your pull so you don’t miss future issues.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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