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on 25 March 2011
This first appeared in the boys weekly comic"Battle"in the late 70's,and is written by Judge Dredd creator John Wagner.It is a particularly blood-soaked story of World War Two jungle combat,set in Burma in 1942.Captain Joe Darkie transforms a run-down platoon into a ruthless fighting machine,feared by the Japanese Army.Darkie is unhesitatingly violent,a single minded,obsessed man ,his only purpose is to kill as many enemy as possible.In the first episode alone,he beats up the injured lieutenant,beats up his Sergeant,pushing his hand into a fire.And kills three enemy soldiers really messily with his kukri,a nasty curved knife.

This is a well-written and drawn piece of work.This and many Battle stories demonstrated a new approach to classic war comics,combining dark humour,realism,historical research and a dose 70's movie cynicism.I remenber this making the Commando books and comics like Warlord look simplistic and childish.This book features really impressive artwork from Mike Western.His dark jungles are the background to his convincing realised characters.He transports the reader to a steaming,humid dangerous and unexpected world,the men's faces masks of fear and weariness.His combat scenes are most impressive,lots of flying blood and faces in agonised death-throes,Darkie has a particularly violent stabbing style,quite often his Kukri goes through and comes right out the other side,with lots of spurting blood...

There is a mystery about Joe Darkie and we pick up little pieces of the puzzle on the way.The grim humour and constant blood spattered action made this a favourite the first time around.Looking at it now,it is actually much better and more gory than I remember.I hope this super book will bring these lost comics to a new audience.My 12-year old thinks it's fantastic.
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on 6 April 2011
"Captain" Darkie has more than a passing resemblance to Marlon Brando's Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now and like the good Colonel is as mad as a bag full of badgers, driven in obsession to wrought havoc on the Japanese and uses whats left of a British Infantry Platoon as his weapon of vengence.

This complete "Darkie's Mob" includes a Preface from Garth Ennis, himself turning out some cracking stuff in his "Battlefield" series. In this Preface he pretty much hits the nail on the head with a quote from the late George MacDonald Fraser's Wartime memoir "Quartered Safe Out Here" where he recounts his time in the 14th Army in Burma.

This is a must for all those middle aged men like myself who read this comic strip over thirty years ago, it's stood the test of time in writing and artwork and its a great pleasure to see this released along with the Epic "Charley's War","Johnny Red" and "Major Eazy" I only hope that "HMS Nightshade" is also up for a second lease of life too.
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on 13 January 2013
I started collecting Battle after this story had ended, but remembered it from old issues I got hold of, so looked through this book when I saw it in Waterstone's. I found Mike Western's art and the dialogue - grittily realistic compared to other strips I rember - compelling, so popped it on my wishlist and my brother bought it me for Christmas.

When I opened it I thought 'Interesting, but I'd've preferred a Charley's War volume'. Then I read it and changed my mind.

Apart from the art, this strip's narrative and plot structures are amazingly innovative. As others have noted, rather than the usual 'The Sarge and his section continue pacing up Italy / thrrough Normandy..', or 'One day Johnny Red and the Falcons were tangling with some Bf109s overr Stalingrad..' box intro, Shortland's diary - discovered after the war on a battlefield - gives us a 1st person perspective on the story. I'm not a comic expert, but can't think of another that uses this tactic. This also suggests the narrator was killed in action sometime in the Mob's story OUTSIDE THE STRIP - and in comics, you don't get anything 'outside the strip' - e.g. Battle stories tended to introduce characters in episode 1, go through the war, then kill them or the war off. Writer John Wagner exploits this tease in the last episode (which I won't spoil for you).

On a more 'tactical' level, Western's art conveys the crowdedness of the Burmese jungle very well; I felt Japanese scouts or snipers lurking in those panels, and the problems of sustenance and disease in remote jungle warfare are covered (tho I'd've liked more on this). The Mob's irregular nature (based on the old 'lost patrol' trope) allows for variation in appearance, usually a problem with war stories' uniforms!

For similar reasons, it would've been better identifying more individuals earlier on, to build our empathy wtih them. One way Wagner raises the drama is the Mob's conflict with other Allies they meet, e.g. Chindits. Despite the series' caveat about 'language some may find offensive', the stories show individual Burmese characters to good effect (and Japanese - whose treatment I won't spoil for you, but it's another original idea). I'd've liked to see Chundra's daughter, or another Burmese (or maybe British?) woman, joining the Mob - it would've given the saga more opportunities for innovative plot twists (Women were rare in Battle, but not unknown).

On more technical points, I think the Mob encounter far more motor transport (esp. tanks) than the Japanese would've had, they probly wouldn't've had Sten guns, the British Army uses 'Pte.' for 'Private' (not the US 'Pvt.'), and Western's Japanese bears no relation to the actual language. However, these don't spoil anything in this very impressive collection.
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Here at last, in one sturdy oversized hardback edition, is a complete collection of every instalment of Darkie's mob, one of the best british war comic stories ever written.

For the uninitiated [which is probably nobody reading this review, but you never know] Darkie's mob came from the pages of Battle picture weekly. A war comic that first appeared in the mid seventies and was published weekly. Battle, along with fellow titles Action and later 2000ad, all from the same publisher, broke the mould of british boys comics by presenting stories that were grimmer, gritter, more realistic and more action packed than anything readers had ever seen before.

Darkie's mob is set in Burma during World War Two, and the narrative is told via a journal found right after the war at the scene of one it's bloodiest battles. It's the journal of Private Shortland. Who records how his platoon, raw and inexperienced and stranded behind the lines seemingly doomed, were saved when Captain Joe Darkie came along and assumed command. A tough and expert guerrilla fighter who knew the area and the people well, and was feared by the Japanese army, Darkie quickly transformed the platoon into Darkie's mob, a skilled band of ruthless guerrilla fighters.

But Darkie has a secret, which Shortland knows and keeps to himself. There is no record of there being a Captain Darkie in the British army. Who is he really? And why does he hate the enemy so much?

Every part runs for either three or four pages, and since they were published in a weekly comic, most are self contained. But they are masterclasses in storytelling because they all throw you into the story right away and also give new readers all the information they need to catch up at the beginning. The first part establishes the situation, the mystery of Darkie, and introduces many supporting characters. And does it all in four pages.

Many stories in this kind of comic would be weekly serial self contained exploits of one character. But Darkie's mob, despite self contained instalments, is a story with a beginning a middle and an end. Which benefits things enormously because that makes it feel even more realistic. Characters are not invulnerable and as the Japanese devote ever more manpower towards bringing down Darkie and his mob, they know that their luck may not last forever.

The art by Mike Western is clear and detailed and does a superb job without ever being flashy or over complicated. And as an added bonus you get a text story featuring Darkie's mob from a battle summer special [it's fine as a self contained piece although don't think about the continuity questions it raises as it involves some characters who are dead by the time it's supposed to be set] and there's also a gallery of Battle covers that featured the story.

The book comes complete with an introduction from noted comics writer Garth Ennis, who grew up on titles like this and has written excellent war comics himself. It's a superb read highlighting the masterful storytelling of the series and also tackling a big question. The fact that some may find the depiction of the Japanese and the language used racist.

Since the only people likely to read this are those who read it originally and thus will be well aware what to expect that shouldn't be a problem. But do read the introduction because it does put the issue into historical context. It was a brutal war, the Japanese army did brutal things, and Darkie and his men have to get that way as it's the only way to survive.

Having said that, the language does get a little repetitive if you read the whole thing right through, but it was never designed to be read that way, so that's something you have to live with.

Since this contains every instalment of the series you do get the parts that appeared in earlier work The Best of "Battle": Vol 1 but that only had a handful of instalments, so it's not a problem.

It's a fine collection containing a great story. Now you can relieve fond memories of visits to the newsagent and handing over a few pence of your pocket money in order to read gripping and action packed tales of men at war. But now in a fine collection that is yours to treasure forever.
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on 10 September 2011
Mike Western couldn't draw a tommy gun to save his life, but who cares? His rendition of disintegrating humanity in dark jungles is magnificent. Even without Wagner's script, this would be well worth looking at. This is where the British boys' comic begins its great and sinister transformation.
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on 12 February 2016
This is a really superb story , written by the Master of 2000ad , John Wagner ( creator of Strontium Dog , and Judge Dredd ) -
I first read this as a young child in 1975 , and was mesmerised by the tale of a group of desperate British Soldiers , who are part of the retreat
from the defeats in Burma - from the Japanese ( read Longest Retreat by Tim Carew - for the true story of this episode , rarely covered )
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on 20 February 2015
One of the great British comic book stories. Unlike some other serials this had a definite beginning and end. I loved reading it again and always enjoy Mike Western's art.
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on 3 June 2016
This is a brilliant comic story. Loved to see more of Action and Battle comics in book form.
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on 19 November 2013
excellent and on time
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on 3 November 2011
Good book
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