This book collects Garth Ennis’s “War Is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle” #1-5. It is the story of a mysterious American pilot who arrives at a British airbase with dubious papers and his own gaudily painted plane to join in the fight against the Hun. After an unfortunate mishap he bluffs his way into the squadron and quickly discovers the horrors of war and the high jinks of his fellow pilots.
The story follows a familiar formula to the one used by many British war comics (e.g. Commando) where a new recruit has to prove himself to his peers, becomes horrified with the reality of actually killing his fellow man and ends up being a bit of hero. It also follows on from great war comic pioneers such as Pat Mills in that it takes a real stab at authority and the Generals of the time.
It is a pretty violent book but generally seems to be toned a notch down from the horrors of Ennis’s other work . It’s actually pretty light hearted at times and seems to be historically sound too. My only real complaint is that it doesn’t really add anything fresh to the genre but it is still worth a read.
“War is Hell” has great art and the coloring of the scenes really captures the WW1 theme well. The art also jumps off the page thanks to the good quality glossy paper stock. Chaykin does a really good job of portraying action and the backdrops and weaponry are also very impressively rendered. Although the art is really nice to look at, I don’t really like the way Chaykin draws faces. His faces have an odd appearance and contain lots of scratchy lines and blotches that look quite strange next to the bold inking on the face outline. Sometimes it looks as if someone has shook an ink pen on the page. Despite this, the coloring and overall impact of the artwork is still great and the highlight of the book. There are some first rate splash pages.
I don’t think these Marvel Max 120 page hardcover books represent good value at $25 and would struggle to recommend it at this price. With a bit of searching you should be able to find the book at a much better price and then the book is worth a try for the glorious looking art and solid story. ISBN-13: 978-0785116431. 7/10
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