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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Comic Review: Johnny Red #1 from Titan Comics

Johnny Red #1
Garth Ennis (writer)
Keith Burns (art)
Titan Comics

action/adventure, war
32 pages
matureLegendary British fighter ace, Johnny 'Red' Redburn, returns once more as the commander of the Falcons – a Russian fighter squadron battling the Nazis in the skies over Stalingrad. But dogfighting Messerschmitts is about to become the least of his troubles when the NVKD – the notorious Soviet secret police – come calling!

I loved, loved, loved Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon's The Preacher series, which I only discovered a few years ago. After reading all of the graphic novels in that series though, I was a full-fledged fan of their work. So when I saw Garth Ennis was collaborating on a new WW2-era comic book series, I just had to check it out.

It begins in present day, however, with a self-made millionaire—one of those Silicon Valley types—on the hunt for a relic of the Second World War to fix up and fly. Kind of like how some buy yachts, some buy Ferraris, and some just go for whatever trendy status symbol is hot that year to show off to their friends and enemies. Well, for Tony Iverson, he wants a Hurricane, the iconic warplane, and the one he's found, bought, and had delivered as a bullet-ridden wreck has one heck of a story behind it. Though that story is shrouded in mystery, denying him the details of how a British plane wound up bound for Russia, lost at sea, and discovered buried in the former East Germany. For answers, Tony meets up with the man who served as a mechanic in the Russian air force, and regales Tony with how he came to meet the pilot of that plane, Johnny “Red” Redburn.

Sgt. Rodimitz's story in the latter half of this opening issue is where things really get interesting. I suppose Tony Iverson as a gateway character, someone through which readers unfamiliar with the war and all that can grab a foothold on the story, is perfectly fine. I, personally, would have probably preferred had the story just been a straight-forward WW2 tale of how a British pilot wound up leading a Russian squadron in their battles against the Nazis. But, that air of mystery surrounding the plane does add some hint of magic to it all, like a good old-fashioned treasure hunt. The treasure in this case being the history.

The artwork is pitch perfect for a comic like this, with rough edges and vibrant colors out front showing off the characters and their planes, with muted backgrounds especially in the more war torn backdrops, so your eye is constantly pulled towards the action.

Where the series appears to lack that brash humor I so enjoyed with the Preacher comics, the care and consideration poured into this story is something any reader should enjoy, especially anyone with a penchant for war stories.

4 stars from Gef Fox

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