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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this now., 17 Jan. 2005
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
This is an absolute gem; one of the underrated classics of British comics.
This is a powerful, moving and sometimes archly funny series concerning the adventures of Charley Bourne, a naive and not too bright 16-year old Cockney lad, who lies about his age to join the army who arrives in France a few weeks before the first day on the Somme. This volume contains the opening episodes in a series that ran to nearly 300 episodes and rarely dropped the pace or the story-telling power.
If you remember the series from your youth, it will not disappoint. It retains all of its old powers to entertain as well as shock, and stands up very well to the test of time to more cynical, adult eye. The beauty of it, is that it didn't condescend to its original audience (which would have been 8-13 year olds). If you are reading this for the first time, then I am sure you will find it rivetting. Each frame is packed with information and details. It is often sly and subversive, especially when the genre was filled with a diet of gung-ho war stories of the Boys' Own variety. It gave a pretty authentic sense of what the war must have been like as a soldier.
It is filled with mordant humour, but also some quite exceptionally poignant scenes. What lifts this story out of the mundane or the worthy is a humanity. You care about Charley and his mates. They feel real, their characters develop, there surroundings feel authentic. Charley is not always very heroic (and more inclined to bitterness and apathy as the story develops), though he has the decency and humanity that is lacking in the war itself.
There is a lot of mordant and bleak humour - a soldier dies in a shellhole next to a skeleton, and if you look carefully the artist has put in an open and discarded Fray Bentos bully beef tin, no doubt chucked over the lip of the nearby trench by a comrade.
A corpse's arm sticks out of a trench side offering the Charley a `landmark' to help them navigate home. During trench repairs, another character complains that this is no kind of life `even the earthworms have snuffed it' under the intense shelling, holding up a lifeless worm as evidence, moments before they unearth a corpse.
In a much later story, a character brutally finishes off a wounded German because he looks like his old school teacher and he adds, he didn't like his school teacher much.
The story throws up unusual aspects of the war. It dealt with the tunnelling under Messines years before it becames more widely known through Sebastian Faulks's BIRDSONG. It also dealt with the British Army mutiny at Etaples a good two years before Paul McGann played Toplis in the BBC television's `THE MONOCLED MUTINEER'. More surprisingly for a war story in a boys comic, it offered long periods of inaction and boredom, and a period on leave at home (though this did involve a neat double-narrative that dealt with a deserter and the French battle of Verdun). The action was often brief, bloody and intense, which seemed to mirror the reality of the war in which two weeks of the year might be `in battle'. The writers would think nothing of devoting 3-pages to a mind-numbing fatigue of some kind, a scrounge for firewood in the dead of winter, an adventure pointing out the absurdities of army bureaucracy in which nothing can be obtained unless you have a `chit', a route march, delousing, or a game of the illegal gambling game `Crown and Anchor'. There was one episode where much of it is spoken in `backslang' to confound a particularly jobsworth NCO (backslang: a street slang that was common to East End and South London traders for years). But it was always engaging and surprisingly sophisticated.
This is loving drawn and wonderfully written by two collaborators at the height of their powers. The final compliment came from some of the old soldiers who regularly wrote into the comic after their grandsons had shown them the strip, and commented on its authenticity.
I sincerely hope that Titan keep going with the series. It gets even better. It also deserves not to be stuck away under the rather po-faced and pseudo-serious `graphic novels' section. It is far richer than that.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charley's War, 26 Dec. 2004
By 
The Uptons "jag" (london england) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
Charley's War was quite simply THE comic strip for me as a small boy. Battle comic would regularly pop through the family letter box in the days of yore and I would race downstairs to eagerly catch up on the various characters that then dominated my world.
Charley's War left an indelible mark on me whilst I was growing up, the strip was illustrated by an artist quite beyond this sphere, the legendary Joe Colquhoun R.I.P. and scripted by the equally talented Pat Mills.
Charley and his fellow Tommies burst off the page, the mud, the bombs, the mustard gas were so real that it seemed you were there, surely a comic, especially a British comic could not have the emotional power to do this?
These men elevated the standard and quality of a media that had previously only dealt in single dimensional one man armies,plastic heroes and downright fantastical piffle. A mere 12pence comic printed on cheap paper surely had no place or indeed right to conjure up such a raw,emotional and graphic image of a horribly obscene war that would forever colour my young mind did it??
Left in the hands of anyone else that would probably have been the case but in the hands of Colquhoun and Mills the spotty faced oiks (me and others like me) got about as close to the festering boil of World War One as was conceivable in the new age of the 1980's.
These two gentlemen of the dying art were most definately not sensationalists cashing in on other peoples misery to make a few quid.Indeed Pat Mills vigourously researched his subject matter, and Joe Colquhoun would devote all his creative zeal to bringing Charley and co alive, often turning down other assignments that would have increased his wages to create the believable story world. For these two men it was more important to represent the atrocity of war in the most real way possible.A new level in comics had been attained, surely nothing could be the same again?
For real read, deserters shot by firing squads,read tackling the class divide between Private and Officer, read rats and horses wearing gasmarks, read the emotional frailty of many of the young men and indeed boys who fought the war.Boys war comics were supposed to be full of gung ho, up and at 'em, home in time for tea thrills and spills. There was no place for 16 year old soldiers crying because they miss the folks back home or on the verge of breakdown having seen a comrade blown to bits in a rat infested trench was there?
Charleys War was the real deal, it could have been your Great Grandfather telling you all about it 20 years ago, indeed Battle used to receive letters from WW1 veterans praising the comic for the accuracy of the strip after their grandsons had shown them, it was praise indeed.
As the years passed I found new thrills in life but the memory of Charley's War stayed with me, years after my Battles were thrown out I searched specialist stores to try and discover my lost youth and I found a few old copies, here in lay the real test; would Charley's War still do it for the 30 something now used to glossy war films and video games? So many things you remember as a callow youth never seem nearly as great with the passing of years, could Charley's War buck this depressing trend?
The answer was a resounding yes it could, in fact it was better because now I understood it all more and it seemed more real.
When I found out that this superb book was to be released it exited me tremendously. Charley really deserves the platform of high art that he now occupies, Titan Books have taken a lost treasure and preserved it anew.
This book is the most awesome work you will experience for years, do yourself a big favour and buy it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the East End to the Western Front, 29 Mar. 2007
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
This beautifully produced black and white hardcover collects the first thirty or so episodes of the nearly 300 originally published in the British comic book "Battle Action" from 1979-85. The story follows Bethnal Green teenager Charley from his enlistment in 1916 through the end of the war, with this initial volume focusing on his acclimation to the Western Front and the Battle of the Somme. The book opens with a fiery foreword from the series' writer, who positions it as the antithesis of both the heroic "Boys Own" genre and the false anti-war sentiments of the "War is Hell" genre. Mills explains how his intent was to highlight the true class nature of warfare via the common man character of Charley -- not that smart, but brave and honorable when it counts.

At first I wasn't that drawn to Charley, he seemed like a pretty typical wisecracking Cockney lad, but as the story advances, you see his sunny disposition get realistically worn down, and a bitterness emerging. Some of the supporting cast are a bit stock, such as Mad Mick, the massive Irishman who can't hold his drink, or Ginger, the perpetual whiner, the straight-arrow Sarge, and the odious Lt. Snell. But others are a little more interesting, like Pop, who enlisted after both sons were killed in the war, or Lonely, the lone survivor of a platoon, or Smith 70, the nerdy machine gunner. The Germans are reasonably well done as Mills does take pains to point out the difference between the Bavarians and Prussians, and the dieharders and the casual soldiers, and there's an obligatory scene with a prisoner where the Brits learn "he's just like one of us."

On the whole, Mills succeeds in his objective of peeling the mythology away from the war, and the comic is truly subversive (especially for its time). He clearly did massive amounts of research and it shows in both the writing and artist Joe Colquhuon's amazingly detailed artwork. In fact, the artwork is the true strength of the series -- each page is jam-packed with visual information and there are tons of small details and mordant humor lurking in the background for the reader to discover. It's amazing to learn in the afterword that Mills and Colquhuon didn't slave away together over each episode. Rather, per the working processes of the day, Mills would write the script and it was edited and sent off to Colquhuon -- and they only spoke a handful of times over the run of the series! I can't speak to whether or not the series would appeal to children of today, but it certainly held the attention of this adult reader.

PS. A very minor quibble with the supplementary material is that it can be hard to match Mills' comments to the corresponding episodes, since they aren't numbered in any way.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long time coming - but worth the wait!, 17 Dec. 2004
By 
W. Harris "wayneharris555" (Nr High Wycombe) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
Fortunately, I managed to scan my entire set of the Charleys War story and have them safely stored on CD.
This was done mainly because the comics were printed on very thin paper and would never have lasted for to long. The other reason was that I never thought Titan would bring these out again. I have the 2 softback graphic novels and will certainly be ordering this new edition.
While I can only concur with Neil Emerys review, I wanted to also add my praise as someone who had no involvement in this new book (other than the tonnes of begging emails sent to Titan).
For any former readers you will know how brilliantly written a comic strip this was, not to mention the artwork which still holds its own today with many of the top creative talent around. Every picture was draw with fantastic detail and it was obvious that both writer and artist researched the material they used to full effect.
For those of you that have never read Charleys War it basically tells the story of a young lad who willingly joins the army in 1916 and is subjected to one of the bloodiest battles in history - The Somme! Needless to say he survives and the story then goes on to tell of other offensives like Passchendale and Cambrai, right up to 1918 where we see Charley go off to fight on the Russian Front and the into WW2.
Keeping to this edition however, it covers the horrors of the Somme and gives us a different persepective from the usual non-fiction reference books. The addition of real photos and reference material is a welcome and fitting bonus that only amplfies Charleys tale and gives the reader more insight into the events of 1916.
In summary I would just like to say that its fantastic that the story has been printed in the format it deserved and I only hope that enough people buy it to keep the further adventures being published.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 7 Jan. 2005
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
This book is more than just a comic strip about World War One - the writing is superb and amazingly well researched and the art work brings the whole story to life.
If you have any interest in WW1 buy it, if you have no interest in WW1 buy it anyway as you soon will have after reading it.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charley's War by Pat Mills and Joe Coquhoun, 18 Nov. 2004
By 
neil emery (Aylesbury, Bucks) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
from my website of Charley's War;
Well, its finally here, after many months of badgering them and hassling them, bombarding them and straffinf them with your email demands for a reprint (or else), those poor people at Titan have finally given in, i received in the post this morning a brand spanking new copy of the new book and WOW! its brilliant.

This quality hardback edition is resplendent in black with a single poignant poppy superimposed onto one of the most famous of the photographs from WW1 (of the tommy in silhouette saying goodbye at the grave of his mate). underneath the title the cover tells us it runs from 2nd June 1916 until the 1st of August 1916 (published from the 6th of January 1979 until 28th July 1979) This means that this collection is bigger than the previous releases in the eighties, and falls only about four issues short of being both previous books combined. Some have said they imagined that the book would be just a re-release of books one and two to cash in on the interest to the website, that couldn't be more wrong, Titan have truly excelled themselves making it contain almost both the previous chapters (1 & 2), a wealth of great articles which includes Pat Mill's forward, his strip commentary, a little bit by me (a striped down stripography) and an excellent historic piece about the background to the Somme by Steve White who put this package together. that's some collection and it makes for a damn impressive book.

Mills writes a strident almost damning foreword to the story in which he acknowledges his peer's compliments on the strip but asks why no-one was influenced enough to take it and make something in its mould, with an equally subversive subtext. As a result it's 'a creative cul-de-sac' says Mills a series that 'led nowhere'.

After Pat's forward there's my modest little effort, all i can say to that is thank you to the kindness of Steve White at Titan for giving me the chance to be involved, and to Pat Mills who always has kept me informed and at the sharp end of the whole thing. It's a very strange feeling to be a part of it, after all these years..

In addition to that at the back of the book is possibly the best thing about this release; Pat Mill's strip commentary, an issue by issue explanation to the content, who, what's, wheres, etc. its a wealth of details about the story that have never been told before and a great read. Lastly Steve White's article on the Somme is highly accurate and informative and gives the new reader some background and context to the strip, which anchors it back where it should be-reality.

Many people were worried that without the original art to print from then the quality of the strip would be comprimised, im very pleased to say thats not true and the the printing is superb throughout, clear and crisp allowing Joes work to impress new generations who discover it..

As you know this website is completely independent and not owned by anyone and not part of Titan at all, but i intend to use this as an advert complete with links, flashing lights and pay now signs, why? because Titan have said that depending on the sales of this release they will continue reprinting until it 'no longer is economically viable'. If the rest are anything like this i want the entire story in my bookcase, so my advice to you charley's war fans is BUY IT !!!!
Neil Emery
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep, moving, disturbing and truly brilliant!, 29 Jan. 2008
By 
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
I am a huge fan of American comics in my early 20s, and stumbled upon this purely by chance, and it has truly opened up a new door for me for a genre that I previously had little interest in. Not just the war comic genre, but British comics in general.

Charley's War goes into territory I didn't realise comics could do. It seems so ahead of it's time, in an era when most comics were glamorising war this does not hold back on completely exposing the true horrors of war. Almost to the extent that it is hard to believe it was aimed at children.

People having their limbs blown off, choking to death on mustard gas, friends being stranded helplessly in no mans land and blown apart, betrayals, cheating, soldiers inner emotions and letters to and from their families...........everything. It covers every aspect of the truly awful thing that is war.

It is infinitely relevant and suitable to people of all ages, and I strongly reccommend that everyone should own a copy. For me, it ranks alongside masterpieces like Sebastian Faulks' 'Birdsong' in terms of it's moving and stirring portrayal of World War I.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia at its best, 3 Jun. 2007
By 
DavyA (Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
Charley's War was an absolute classic. I bought this to wallow in the nostalgia of this fantastic comic strip & I wasn't disappointed.The book is marvellously presented with an interesting introduction by Pat Mills.
Charley Bourne, lies about his age to fight in WW1, where he encounters comradeship, courage & horror - it all came flooding back & I got the other titles in the series too, I enjoyed it so much. Great stories, great artwork, fantastic detail.
I don't think there's any other comic book / graphic novel I would ever buy (although the "Commando" books are tempting !) but Charley's War was an enjoyable part of a '70's / '80's boyhood, & these books allow you to re visit the excitement & pleasure you felt as a nipper following Charley's exploits. Top notch.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic british comic, 2 Dec. 2004
By 
E T Palmer (Pontyprid, glamorgan United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
If your a fan of classic british comics then this book is a must. Charley's War is one of the best comic series of all time. The book looks brilliant and is packed full of brilliant facts and info, not just about the comic strip but also about the 1st world war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My childhood escape, 15 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 (Hardcover)
I must admit i thought this book was a wordy story and not a collection of the comic pages. But what a pleasant surprise. I did actually cut out every episode of Charlie's War from Battle and put them in a binder. I only threw them out a couple of years ago after going thru some old stuf at my parent's house. I am now 46. Reading battle and worlord was one of my happiest moments as a child that i can remember. The essence of Charlie's story highlights the fact that soldiers are not politicians, they fight for good against evil and above all for their mates and comrades where ever and whatever the conflict or scenario. And good officers are the ones that earn and prove the right to be there. I myself went on and did 9 years in the Commando Engineers and loved every single second of it. I will get the rest of the series at some point. Get it and you will enjoy it.
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Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916
Charley's War: 2 June-1 August 1916 by Joe Colquhoun (Hardcover - 26 Nov. 2004)
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