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