4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Amazing. A masterclass in war comic storytelling.,
This review is from: Darkie's Mob: The Secret War of Joe Darkie (Hardcover)
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.