Frank Bellamy has to rank as one of the most outstanding graphic artists of the last century. His influence on practitioners of comic strips and illustration has been profound and continues to exert itself to this day. It is therefore surprising that so little of his work has been collected into book format, outside of long out of print collections of his graphic novel biographies of Churchill and General Montgomery and more recently his TV 21 Gerry Anderson adaptions, much of his finest work remains unseen outside of the coterie of comic art cognoscenti who have been lauding this man's work for much of the last fifty years.
Book Palace Books have with commendable zeal and vision decided to redress this lamentable state of affairs and this book which is a beautifully conceived presentation of the entire run of his re-telling of the First World War accompanied by a highly engaging script by Michael Butterworth, should immediately recommend itself to both enthusiasts of graphic novels and military history alike. The illustrations and accompanying text which first appeared in the UK comic Look and Learn in the early 1970's when Bellamy was at the height of his powers, are perhaps one of the most compelling graphic narratives of the climatic events which engulfed much of the world as events in Sarajevo in the late summer of 1914 precipitated a calling to account of Imperial ambitions and millions of lives were upended and arbitrarily terminated in the subsequent four years of conflict.
Bellamy's artistry is at it's most vivid here and although there is a limited use of photography in this amazing collection, it's Bellamy's ability to propel the reader into the heart of the action, whether it be the brutal and bloody hand to hand fighting of trench warfare, the high adrenaline thrill of diving out of the sun with Von Richtofen's Flying Circus, the horror of a gas attack or finding yourself on a pitching deck in the midst of the Battle of the Jutland, that really grabs the attention of the reader.
Put quite simply these are pages you feel compelled to turn, and they are all brilliant - not a dud amongst them.
The book in terms of design, production and reproduction is a truly beautiful piece of work, previous editions of Bellamy's work, particularly "The Fraser of Africa" and "High Command" collections, have suffered from so-so reproduction, but Book Palace Books are to be commended for the quality of scanning and restoration of these pages, which has enabled a quality of reproduction which would have been unthinkable fifteen years earlier.
With additional and highly informative text by comics historian and writer, Steve Holland and an introduction and contextualization of the work by Norman Boyd, whose expertise on Frank Bellamy is second to none, this book is destined to become an indispensable addition to the bookshelves of both connoisseurs of graphic novels and lovers of accessible and well told military history.