Tag Archives: Ken Bruzenak

Review: War is Hell #1

War is Hell #1

In honor of Marvel’s 80th Anniversary and history with War Comics comes a brand new edition of War is Hell with two fascinating and soul-crushing tales of War. “In the Mood” by Howard Chaykin takes you to the skies as the Luftwaffe and RAF battle over the English Channel for a battle tale of bitter irony and “War Glammer” by Phillip Kennedy Johnson brings you back to Earth in modern day Afghanistan with a story that will chill you to the bone.

War Is Hell #1 is a comic of two stories – quite literally. Paying homage to the publisher’s roots, we get two separate and distinct stories decry the horrors of war. The second is far more brutal than the first, and is set up as a narration over imagery as a group of US soldier embark on a raid in Afghanistan. The story, War Glammer is written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and features art by Alberto Alburquerque with colours by Andres Mossa. It’s easily the darker of the two in terms of subject matter and the visuals used – which are really quite solid – and doesn’t try to gloss over the soldier’s experience.

Look, I need to be utterly clear here: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the armed forces. I genuinely don’t know what war is like beyond news reports and stories online, so while this story fills my impression of war, my impression could be very, very wrong.

That said, War Glammer is a good story, fully contained with a powerful impact on the reader (especially upon the second read through).

Howard Chaykin’s story, In The Mood takes place over several years in the Second World War and follows a German fighter pilot who disagrees with the Nazi philosophy, but takes pride in serving his country (“Germany, not Nazi-Germany”) well. This short story feels very much like the older stories that this book is paying homage too, both in setting and the content of the story. In The Mood is much lighter than the follow up, again both visually and in subject matter, but leaves no less an impact upon the reader as the story reminds us that our actions have consequences.

War Is Hell #1 is a really interesting comic, and the dual story nature of it forces both writers to trim the chaff – neither is forced to extend their stories to fill the space within, and the comic is stronger for it. If you’re interested in a couple of really good short stories, then this is worth picking up; I was going to recommend this when I assumed it was $6, but after a quick fact check, it’s only $4.

Story: Howard Chaykin and Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Howard Chaykin and Alberto Alburquerque
Colourist: Edgar Delgardo and Andres Mossa Letterer: Ken Bruzenak Story: 7.9 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read.

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review : The Newsboy Legion And The Boy Commandos Special #1

On paper, this sounded like an idea that was either really going to work — or miss the mark by a country mile.

Howard Chaykin‘s name has, of course, been synonymous with revamping “old-time” characters for decades now — he was the first to do it for The Shadow, and later took a crack at such venerable properties as BlackhawkBuck RogersDC‘s various Silver Age sci-fi stalwarts, and many others. Doing it one more time surely shouldn’t be too much of a challenge — but this is the first time he’s taken on a Jack Kirby creation front and center, and given the relative innocence and whimsy that are the heart and soul of both The Newsboy Legion and The Boy Commandos, well — let’s just say Chaykin doesn’t seem like a “natural fit” for either. And certainly his newly-minted status as very nearly a persona non grata among many fans isn’t going to help matters much in terms of sales here, but if we leave all the controversy aside and just examine this book on its own merits, I have to say — it’s not too shabby at all.

If you’re “off Chaykin,” fair enough — but if you’re not, there’s plenty to really like in the pages of The Newsboy Legion And The Boy Commandos Special  #1 (I’m getting the full title from the copyright indicia even though both “the”s, as well as the “and,” are omitted from the cover) : Chaykin’s typically-crowded and garish visuals are nicely evocative of the worldwide air of confusion and disorientation that no doubt prevailed anywhere and everywhere during WWII; he displays an immediate and easy understanding of his large and sprawling cast and makes them all seem like fairly unique individuals; letterer/effects artist par excellence Ken Bruzenak brings his “A” game and then some; colorist Wil Quintana (who seems to have replaced Jesus Aburto as Chaykin’s hues-man of choice) adds terrific depth, nuance, and vibrancy to every panel and page; the “team-up” of these classic “kid gangs” is achieved by means both logically sound and narratively seamless; the stand-alone story cleverly telegraphs its simple-yet-effective ending early on in a manner that will bring a smile to your face when you think about it later — honestly, this all reads like a very heartfelt and respectful tribute to The King Of Comics that isn’t so much stuck in the past but informed  and inspired by it. The only thing missing that I would have liked to see? That would be The Guardian — but hey, he at least turns up in the classic Joe Simon -scripted, Kirby-drawn Golden Age Newsboy Legion reprint story that’s included as a backup feature (and is, in fairness, the highlight of the book — but how could it not be?), and that serves to round off a nicely-done package that’s $4.99 (which I paid out of pocket) well spent.

There’s a fine line between respectful homage and slavish, uninspired rehash, of course, and these “King 100” specials are sure to have plenty of both (and, indeed, already have, as Shane Davis‘ lackluster New Gods Special #1 was definitely the latter), but it’s probably not fair, given their editorial remit, to expect any of them to be especially groundbreaking or innovative. Chaykin doesn’t strive for either with this book, but he successfully operates within the parameters he’s been given to craft a perfectly enjoyable story that even manages to incorporate some genuine historical material (specifically the attempts of domestic “fifth column” Nazi sympathizers in the US to stage a coup against their own government) that adds an air of intrigue and authenticity to the proceedings that goes well above and beyond what we as readers probably have any right to realistically expect from what could reasonably be assumed, going in, to be nothing more than a simple “throwaway” yarn.

All that being said, if you weren’t a fan of Chaykin’s signature — and frankly singular — style of storytelling prior to this comic, there’s pretty much zero chance that you’ll enjoy it here, either. Things are cluttered, frenetic, deliberately “messy,” and events occur in staggering, rapid-fire succession. He’s been doing this since American Flagg!, and he’s not going to change now. You’re either on-board with “Chaykin Comics,” or you’re not. I admit that I am, but do understand why many readers aren’t, as any number of consensus “Comic Book 101” basics are either bent into unrecognizable form, or ignored altogether in Chaykin’s works. So keep that in mind before you fork over your hard-earned cash for this book.

Final verdict, then : odds are you’ll know whether or not The Newsboy Legion And The Boy Commandos Special #1 is “your kind of comic” before you even give it a glance at your LCS. If it’s not, then it won’t be. If it is, then it will be — and may even exceed your expectations.

Story : Howard Chaykin  Art : Howard Chaykin

Story : 7.5  Art : 8.5  Overall : 8  Recommendation : Buy