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Have some lead from Johnny Red!,
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This review is from: Johnny Red : Falcons First Flight (Hardcover)
Here at last, in a large and sturdy hardcover edition, are the early exploits of Johnny 'Red' Redburn, from the pages of Battle Picture Weekly.
For the uninitiated [you doubtless aren't if you're reading this, but just in case] Battle Picture Weekly was a weekly british comic that launched in 1975. Along with the earlier Action and the later 2000ad, it broke the mould of British boy's comics, because they all told stories that were grimmer and gritter and more action packed a little bit more serious and grown up than comics had ever done before.
Johnny Red, which went on to run for ten years before the title went over to reprinting earlier parts, was the tale of Johnny Redburn. A nineteen year old who grew up in the back streets of Liverpool, he was dishonourably discharged from the RAF in 1941 after being wrongly accused of striking a superior officer. Desperate to do his bit for the war effort regardless, the only way he could get back in was as a galley hand on a merchant ship, which is part of an arctic convoy to russia at the start of the first part.
When the pilot of the hurricane that is due to be launched from the ship to defend the convoy is taken out of action, Johnny seizes his chance, and one baptism of fire later, he's shooting down nazi planes. But with nowhere to land back with the convoy, and facing awkward questions if he does, his only option is to try and land in Russia. Landing at the home base of a Russian squadron called the Falcons, who are downbeaten and have been written off by their command and are seemingly doomed, Johnny has found his war at last. And the legend of Johnny Red, the English pilot who fights with the Russians, is about to begin....
Battle was a weekly comic, and every story had just three pages a week. You get thirty seven parts of Johnny Red [some later ones go up to four pages] and what's instantly impressive about the writing is how much it packs in every week, usually ending on a cliffhanger that makes you want to return for the next part. You do get the handful of parts that were in The Best of "Battle": Vol 1 but you do get plenty that haven't seen the light of day in many years which follow right on from them also.
The artwork from Joe Colquhoun is crisp and clear and packs in an amazing amount of detail, and it's a total pleasure to look at.
Johnny himself is an appealing lead character, a likeable young man who just wants to do his bit and who comes to feel for the Russians and the struggle they are facing, against the nazis and the occasional fanatical commissar who is determined to make everyone bar themselves die for the Motherland.
With lots of exciting aerial dogfights and some bold feats of flying, they really don't make them like this anymore.
It also pulls no punches in depicting the horror and brutality of the conflict, and the depth of research in the writing really impresses.
With an introduction from noted comics writer Garth Ennis about his love for the series, plus a fascinating section of historical information about the pilots who flew hurricanes with the arctic convoys, this is a fine collection and a great way to get a classic comic back into print.
And to bring back some cherished memories for those of us who grew up on Battle. They are now yours to cherish forever in one volume.
Whilst the final instalment in this one doesn't end on a cliffhanger and thus makes it reasonably self contained, Johnny as mentioned ran for many more years and fought many more battles. So here's hoping we will get to see those as well.