Review by Eamonn Clarke
Review by Eamonn Clarke
To End All Wars – The Graphic Anthology of the First World War, edited by Jonathan Clode and John Stuart Clarke with an introduction by Pat Mills.
During 2014 we have all spent some time thinking about the “Great” War which started 100 years ago. I know I have tried to picture myself as one of those lads sent to fight in muddy fields and wondered how I would have felt as I marched off to war. Would I have had the jingoistic hope that it would indeed all be over by Christmas, or does the gift of 100 years hindsight make it impossible to be that soldier boy without knowing of the horrors that awaited him and his friends? There have been commemorations aplenty and here is a comic book version which I put up on this site because of Uncle Pat’s introduction.
Clode and Clark have compiled another impressive looking hard back edition containing 27 different black and white stories by a variety of new names in British comics. It’s a well bound heavy weight volume that retails at £18.99 and for every book sold £2 goes to the Doctors without Borders organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières. Pat Mills’ introduction takes up three pages and, as ever, he doesn’t pull his punches and is almost worth the price of admission alone. To quote from his second paragraph: “This anthology is important because A Very British Lie is currently being perpetrated about World War One. In summary, the Sandhurst trained revisionists are rewriting history in the most outrageous way to claim that ‘sacrifices’ like the Somme were necessary to help Field Marshall Haig win the war; even though Britain’s Daily Telegraph itself admits, ‘what a terrible shame it was that Haig’s progress along his learning curve had to be greased by such deep floods of blood’“.
It clearly a gross simplification and far too easy to just trot out the statement that all war is wrong, that every war is by its nature a crime, though even the most professional soldier probably knows this deep in their hearts, as do we all. But the first world war does stand out as one of the most pointless and bloodthirsty example of mankind’s foolhardy nature. It was supposed to be that mythical war to end all wars, the conflict that killed nine million combatants and caused the death of millions more civilians. A bloody, brutal and terrible time in our history, and one that is dealt with very well by the writers and artists of this compilation.
Uncle Pat picks out the first story by Brick in which the main culprits behind the slaughter are brought to a mythical war crimes tribunal and questioned by a simple soldier as to the reasons for going to war. And it is an effective tale, although as we may just about recall from our schoolbook histories the cogs and levers that led the world to war were complicated, and at the same time trivial, so it is no surprise that most of us have clung on to that single detail about a minor European royal being shot in an open topped car. Personally I found some of the other stories about the common men and women affected by the war much more effective, but I do agree with Mills in being glad that the voices of all sides are heard, including German, French and African soldiers as well as us Brits.
Possibly the most moving piece is the final one of the book, Joe Gordon’s impassioned prose ‘Memorial to the Mothers‘ illustrated by Kate Charlesworth. A simple reminder that for every male name we see on a war memorial there was at least one other wounded person, the mothers and wives who bore the terrible brunt of the criminal throwing away of their loved ones’ lives. Apart from this there was nothing in the volume that quite reached the heights of Mills and Colquhoun’s Charley’s War, or Jacques Tardi’s It was the War of the Trenches for me.
Competition for the 2000AD pound is strong at the moment and I should imagine that this fine volume is probably not going to be on many people’s lists. But if you come across it in a bookshop do read Uncle Pat’s powerful and polemical introduction, and if you do then think about giving that day’s sandwich money to Médecins Sans Frontières. Cheers and a Happy and Peaceful Christmas to us all.
Review by Eamonn Clarke.
This volume follows on from the previous England’s Glory book and collects the next two adventures of Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s mysterious pope of crime and his gang of bizarre assistants who have become London’s defenders against some weird and wonderful assaults. In the first story Stickleback fights an aerial battle with Countess Bernoulli, the mad mistress of the mechanical. He then returns from an apparent watery grave to take on some reptilian bad guys who also have London in their sights.
Edginton and D’Israeli are two of the most talented and reliable creators on the 2000AD roster, and Stickleback may be their finest creation. There’s no doubt that Edginton relishes the Victorian milieu that he has populated with his clockpunk characters and a host of murderous monsters. And Stickleback himself is a remarkable figure who bestrides two underworlds, the criminal classes and all the illegal business of the capital, and a much darker and deeper hell which spews forth some truly nasty creatures.
D’Israeli yet again proves himself the master of black and white art with his lovingly rendered figures and the vast amount of different textures that he uses to delineate them. Goodness knows how long this strip takes him to produce. I’ve watched his videos about creating the textures in these stories that he has produced for Pete Wells’ 2000AD Covered Uncovered blog and I am baffled and amazed by it all.
As ever there are lots of lovely references to all kinds of other fictional characters hiding in the background of many of the panels, the sort of thing that delights a pop culture junkie like myself. And, of course, there is the ongoing mystery of Stickleback’s true identity with several hints along the way. Regular Prog readers will know the answer by know and it is fascinating to read these two collections again and see where Edginton and D’Israeli have teased us with their foreknowledge. This volume also includes an introduction by the two creators, an extra Christmas story illustrated by INJ Culbard which appeared in the 2009 Christmas edition, and some character design sketches by D’Israeli to round out the package.
The great thing about an anthology comic like 2000AD is how it has constantly produced strange and surreal strips which feel like they wouldn’t find a home in more conventional comics. Long may it continue, and long may the adventures of the bizarre antihero Stickleback continue as well. Five stars for the weird wonders of Stickleback and his complex world, and now there’s no excuse for me not to finish my annotations project.
You wait years for Judge Death to come along and then suddenly 3 turn up at once, or in this case 3A with some more details of the statue which will be available to order from January 14th. Please form an orderly queue behind Mr Burdis and Mr Wells.
If you subscribe to the 2000AD weekly Thrill-mail then you will have already seen this, and if not then head over to 2000ADonline.com and subscribe.
Henry Flint doing the cover artwork for the third year in a row. The big name that seems to be sparking some interest this year is legendary Batman artist Norm Breyfogle.
The Thrill-mail also has news of the 3A Judge Death statue due in January. Pictures to follow.