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Review: Johnny Red #1

JohnnyRed1Legendary 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 are about to become the least of his troubles when the NVKD – the notorious Soviet secret police – come calling!  

Look, I’m going to be honest with you here; I love everything about this comic. Reading it reminded me in all the right ways of my dad’s old comic strips I read as a kid in England. To say that Johnny Red #1 has captured my nostalgia is entirely accurate, but this is also a very good comic whether it reminds you of times gone by or not.

As an homage to the classic British war strips of the 60’s and 70’s, this is spot on, right down to the scratchy art style that conveys so much detail and grit in the panels. Indeed Keith Burns gives us some spectacular double page spreads here that, whilst they didn’t really shine as well as they could have on the review pdf I had (I can’t wait to see them in a printed copy when I get my hands on one), promise to be stunning.

Garth Ennis has approached the framing  of the story brilliantly; set more or less in the present day, the comic opens with a man, Tony Iverson, buying an old wreck of an air pane. But who flew it, and how was it wrecked?  I’m sure you can guess the answer to the first question easily enough, and the rest? Well that’s what we the readers, and Tony Iverson are hoping to discover.

I’m genuinely excited by this comic; not only because Garth Ennis is on fine form here, but in part because the way in which he is telling the story is fantastic and also Keith Burns art is just stunning. Although the double page spreads may have lost some of their magic in the review copy, his layouts are spectacular, as is the way his line work encapsulates the feeling of reading an old war comic without feeling like it’s stuck in the past. It feels like the perfect mix of an homage to the old with just the right dash of the new thrown in.

I did mention that I was a bit of a fan of this comic, and I can’t wait for the next seven issues, but because I feel the need to temper expectations that I may have unfairly built, after all Johnny Red brought back a lot of memories of old comic strips an anthology books from my childhood, so I am aware that the nostalgic factor is definitely there, but I also really enjoyed it as a comic beyond the nostalgia factor. But at the end of the day as much as I loved Johnny Red #1, am I a huge fan because of the feelings this comic evokes in me, or am I a fan because it’s a truly excellent comic? It’s tough for me to differentiate the two, so although this may not be the best comic you’ll read this week, and even though this comic was nigh on perfect for me, I wanted to be as honest as I could about why I love this issue so much.

At the end of the day, whether you love it as much as I did (and I hope you do) is a question that only you can answer.

Writer: Garth Ennis Art: Keith Burns
Story: 9.75 Art: 9.75 Overall: 9.75 Recommendation: Buy

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review