Saturday, July 19, 2014

Book Reviews--Tankies/Firefly and His Majesty

A few months ago, my friend Joe and I discussed comic books.  We agreed that, with few exceptions, like Spider-Man for me, the superhero comics were our least favorite.
I leaned mostly towards war comics.  My reading ranged from the two-fisted tales of Sgt. Rock and Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos...
(Image from DC Wikia) the supernatural with The Haunted Tank, and Weird War Tales.
(Image from Comic Vine)
Not very realistic stuff to be sure, and when I discovered wargaming, my sporadic comic book collecting took a back seat.
Then a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a couple of issues of Garth Ennis' Battlefields
First up is Tankies
In this story, an inexperienced crew of a Churchill Tank loses it's commander and figure they've done their part for King & Country.  That is, until hardcore veteran, Corporal Stiles, takes over.  The not-so-merry band then spends the rest of the story trying to catch up with their regiment, while not getting "brewed up" by prowling Tiger Tanks.
In the sequel, we find the indomitable Corporal Stiles commanding a new Sherman Firefly, with a new crew.  This time, while passing through the American sector, the Firefly crew take a detour from rejoining their regiment, and stalk an even greater menace-- a King Tiger tank.

Both story arcs follow a similar trajectory:  An allied tank with an inexperienced crew vs. an experienced German crew manning a tank with a better gun and thicker armor. 
While it may seem redundant, both stories reflect the tactical reality GIs and Tommies faced from the moment they tried breaking out of the Normandy Beaches to VE Day. This was a common theme in a lot of war movies I watched with my dad.  Later, I would see this played out repeatedly in all the Western Front wargame I participated in. 
Despite such repetitiveness, Garth Ennis tells both stories well, and far more realistically than the war comics I read in my youth.  There's a hefty dose of humor in the finale of Tankies, while the ending of Firefly and His Majesty is intense.  Notice, I didn't say the ending was happy.
There are some graphic depictions of violence, like when an armor piercing round ricochets around inside a tank, but I didn't find it gratuitous.  Instead, the artwork done by Carlos Esquerra, and John Cassaday (for Tankies only), illustrate the horrors of war.
Since these novels came out four-five years ago, there's literally only a few copies left on at the time of this posting:  One copy of Tankies and two copies of Firefly and His Majesty.   You might be able to find issues on sites like E-bay, or in used bookstores, like Half Price Books.
I give both stories a solid 4-stars for memorable story telling.

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