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Review: The Night Witches

THE NIGHT WITCHES

As a child of the 1980s, I grew up in an era that many considered a golden age of cinema. The movie industry started to produce movies that many would soon be known as “blockbusters”. These movies got audiences to come to the theaters by the millions creating an experience for friends and families. One of those movies was Top Gun, a film that embraced American machismo and set a new standard for what was considered “cool”.

The movie has many anachronisms that, though they served the story well, is considered politically incorrect today. From a technical perspective, as someone who used to be in the military, there is a ton of inaccuracies as well. One glaring omission was the lack of female pilots, something that existed before the movie was made. In Garth Ennis and Russ Braun’s The Night Witches, we get a tale of one famous squadron during WWII. It’s a story where one pilot must prove her mettle.

We’re taken to World War II Russia, where we meet Guards Major Aleksander Lukin, who just has been given the task of training the first all-female fighter squadron, the first of its kind anywhere. This is where we meet our protagonist, Lt. Anna Kharkova, who soon finds out that their mission is night bombing, a dangerous assignment, which will cost them several casualties on the first flight operation. This first mission also reveals to the Germans, that Russia is using female pilots, an anomaly no one could have anticipated and something, the Nazi battalions start to target. Eventually, Anna and her fellow pilots start to become proficient, effectively taking out forward bases and catching the eye of the Russian secret police and the Nazi army. Eventually, things don’t go as planned, and one of the fighter planes crashes in Nazi territory, leaving one survivor, Guards Captain Nadia Popova, alone with a rifle and behind enemy lines. Before long, Anna becomes an experienced pilot, flying over 200 successful missions and only wounded twice, but gets transferred to a unit of all-male pilots where she is the most experienced combat pilot there. She would rise to the rank of Captain and lead a unit of six female combat pilots which she is charged with training. The one mission she goes with her newly trained unit results in her plane getting shot down and being imprisoned in a German POW camp, which is eventually liberated. Fast forward to 1951, and Anna, after a few political missteps get busted down, not before pissing off a higher up which sends her and her best friend to jail. By the book’s end, our heroine outwits some of the same men who were threatened by her ability and possibly becoming the best pilot in all of Russia.

Overall, an engrossing read that makes the audience invest in the characters and their story arcs, as Maverick has nothing on the Night Witch. The story by Garth Ennis is well developed, well-characterized, and stays with the reader long after. The art by Russ Braun, Tony Avina, and Simon Bowland is elegant. Altogether, one of the best stories that Ennis has ever written, as it is more than inspirational, it is a vision for a progressive world.

Story: Garth Ennis Art: Russ Braun, Tony Avina, and Simon Bowland
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Dead Reckoning Announces New Graphic Novels for Spring 2019

Dead Reckoning, the new graphic novel imprint of Naval Institute Press, has announced new comics they’re releasing in Spring 2019.

Things kick off in March 2019 with The Night Witches by Garth Ennis, Russ Braun, Tony Avina, and Simon Bowland as well as Katusha: Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War by Wayne Vansant.

April 2019 sees the release of Riff Reb’s Men at Sea which is translated by Joe Johnson.

Stalingrad: Letters from the Volga by Antonio Gil and Daniel Ortega with a translation by Jeff Whitman is out May 2019.

June 2019 sees the graphic novel adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque‘s All Quiet on the Western Front by Wayne Vansant.

Check out below for the full descriptions.

The Night Witches

by Russ Braun, Garth Ennis

As the German Army smashes deep into Soviet Russia and the defenders of the Motherland retreat in disarray, a new squadron arrives at a Russian forward airbase. Like all night bomber units, they will risk fiery death flying obsolete biplanes against the invader—but unlike the rest, these pilots and navigators are women. In the lethal skies above the Eastern front, they will become a legend—known to friend and foe alike as the Night Witches.

With casualties mounting and the conflict devouring more and more of her comrades, Lieutenant Anna Kharkova quickly grows from a naive teenager to a hardened combat veteran. The Nazi foe is bad enough, but the terrifying power of her country’s secret police makes death in battle almost preferable. Badly wounded and exiled from her own people, Anna begins an odyssey that will take her from the killing fields of World War II to the horrific Soviet punishment camps—and at the top of the world, high above the freezing Arctic Ocean, the Night Witch finds she has one last card to play.

Katusha: Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War

by Wayne Vansant

On Sunday, June 22, 1941, the morning after Katusha’s graduation, the Germans invade the Soviet Union. As enemy forces occupy Kiev, Ukraine, Katusha and her family learn the Nazis are not there to liberate them from harsh communist rule, but to conquer. They discover there is a special danger for the Jews, and in saving her friend Zhenya Gersteinfeld, Katusha finds her whole family in danger.

During the next four years, Katusha experiences the war on the Eastern Front with all its ferocity and hardship: first as a partisan, then as a Red Army tank driver and commander. From Barbarossa to Babi Yar, from Stalingrad to Kursk, from the Dnipro to Berlin, follow the footprints and tanks tracks of Katusha’s journey through a time of death, hopelessness, victory, glory, and even love.

Seen through the eyes of a Ukrainian teenage girl, Katusha is both a coming-of-age story and a carefully researched account of one of the most turbulent and important periods of the twentieth century, where women served in the hundreds of thousands, and Russians died by the millions.

Men at Sea

by Riff Reb’s

Men at Sea is an opus of eight spectacularly drawn dark, poetic stories adapted by Riff Reb’s.

This collection offers:

  • “A Smile of Fortune,” from Joseph Conrad
  • “The Sea Horses” and “The Shamraken Homeward Bound,” from William Hope Hodgson
  • “The Galley Slaves” and “The Far South,” from Pierre Mac Orlan
  • “A Descent into the Maelstrom,” from Edgar Allan Poe
  • “The Three Customs Officers,” from Marcel Schwob
  • “The Shipwreck,” from Robert Louis Stevenson

These eight tales, themselves interspersed by seven double-page spreads dedicated to extracts from illustrated classics, deliver a rich, poetic, and masterfully crafted work of life and death on the sea.

Stalingrad: Letters from the Volga

by Antonio Gil, Daniel Ortega

Stalingrad. From August 1942 to February 1943 this model industrial city, bathed by the waters of the Volga, was home to the bloodiest battle of World War II. Stalingrad: Letters from the Volga offers a fast-paced depiction of this titanic struggle: explicit, crude, and without concessions—just as the war and the memory of all those involved demands.

The battle rendered devastating results. Almost two million human beings were marked forever in its crosshairs, a frightening figure comprised of the dead, injured, sick, captured, and missing. Military and civilians alike paid with their lives for the personal fight between Stalin and Hitler, which materialized in long months of primitive conflict among the smoking ruins of Stalingrad and its surroundings.

Stalingrad: Letters from the Volga presents the battle, beginning to end, through the eyes of Russian and German soldiers. Take a chronological tour of the massacre, relive the fights, and feel the drama of trying to survive in a relentless hell of ice and snow.

All Quiet on the Western Front

by Wayne Vansant

Hailed by many as the greatest war novel of all time and publicly burned by the Nazis for being “degenerate,” Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece, All Quiet on the Western Front, is an elegant statement on a generation of men destroyed by war.

Caught up by a romantic sense of patriotism and encouraged to enlist by authority figures who would not risk their lives to do the same, Paul Bäumer and his classmates join the fighting in the trenches of the Western Front in World War I. He is soon disenchanted by the constant bombardments and ruthless struggle to survive. Through years in battle, Paul and those he serves with become men defined by the violence around them, desperate to stay as decent as they can while growing more and more distant from the society for which they are fighting.

This graphic novel recreates the classic story in vivid detail through meticulous research. The accurate depictions of uniforms, weapons, trenches, and death brings the horrors of the Western Front to life in a bold new way.

Almost American