This has got to be one of the giants of graphic novels alongside V for Vendetta and Watchmen.
The book comes with an introduction by Pat Mills from March 2007 discussing his motivation for creating Bill Savage and the evolution of the character, what from the storyline was invention and what was real (the fire field's surrounded by double yellow lines are real and had been used historically by Russia forces, even if they seem like something from Command and Conquer). There is at the back of the book a collection of cover art, which is best left to the end because they are reminders that these stories where packaged and dispensed as action comic entertainment to young readers. This is fair enough but given the subject matter, its brilliance, eye to national and international politics and often sinister mirroring of real world events (suicide bombings, beheadings, torture, war for oil) its reductive to consider it as only action entertainment.
Like 1984 there's a mix of actual present day events featured in the book in a slightly different context which is thought provoking and future shock totalitarian horrors.
Bill Savage has changed from the "true grit" trucker who came home to his home reduced to rubble recovered a shotgun from the ruins and decided to give the invaders what for to a slightly more sophisticated resistance leader. In this role Bill meets with American intelligence operatives, former UK intelligence operatives, thugs, psychos, freedom fighters, a Volgan leader and meets with the full range of human drama tragedy.
There is enough here to satisfy any fan of straight forward comic action, Savage appears to be more than just a shotgun weilding everyman and is instead proficient in all kinds of weapons and tactics. A couple of scenes are reminiscent of Marvel's Frank Castle/The Punisher, while others reminded me of scenes from Chuck Norris' Invasion USA.
However, what really made the graphic novel for me where all the ways in which the motivations of characters and how they rationalised the role they played where portrayed. For instance, Savage is motivated in no small part by family loyalties, he's tough but raises serious questions about how exactly any acts of violence are going to serve either his desire for revenge or expelling the Volgans. Next to him the group Traitors Gate who are beheading people look depraved, although the rubber costumes did add to the effect.
The rationalisation for betrayal, either sudden and swift or slow and sure are compelling, people dont sell out too easily but they do if their new role is comparative to their old one. The genesis of the Volgans and just how their invasion and continued occupation of Britain, following the discovery of coast line oil reserves greater than those in the middle east, was possible are all explained. There is also some interesting final content how the deliberate use of depleted uranium weapons was part of greater effort to poison the water table, sickening and killing the population.
All round brilliant and I felt the plain black and white drawings where excellent too, lending a proper tone to the gritty storyline.