From author Garth Ennis, illustrator Carlos Ezquerra, published by Dead Reckoning. This series collects three stories from Battlefields.
I was familiar with other works from both the writer and artist but never before have I read their military comics. This book took me for a ride I didn’t expect and dropped me off with a new level of respect for not only the creators but also for every soldier who rode along in one of these tanks.
The stories follow Corporal, later Sargeant, Stiles as he commands a tank in World War II and later the Korean War. Stiles is obsessed with taking out the German Tiger tank, and later a King Tiger. Come the Korean War, the horrors he faced years earlier come roaring back as he tries to protect his crew from a similar fate.
While Stiles is a fictional creation, everything that he goes through and the situations he encounters are all rooted in fact. As there are more generations apart from the Greatest Generation there is more distance and a separation from the reality of what they went through. Rarely has such a brutal and honest look at war been seen on comic pages.
Ennis always has a big gross over the top page in his work, the handful in The Tankies hit harder. Sure, part of that is the amazing work of Ezquerra. Ridiculously detailed panel after panel showcasing the inside and outside of tanks in all their glory. Also, ridiculously detailed panels showcasing the inside and outside of soldiers in all their gory. Carlos has shown and co-created the brutal world of Judge Dredd plus working alongside Ennis on titles like Just a Pilgrim. However, because this is based in reality every bit of action brings with it the weight of reality that Mega City One cannot.
The story opened my eyes to not only the aforementioned horrors of war but the logistics of war as well. Especially the technology and options of the time. Communication, planning, battles on multiple fronts in many countries on varied terrain. “We’ve won the battle but not the war” is a cliché line now but a quote that makes sense while reading The Tankies. These tank vs tank battles may not seem like turning points in the war but it is a butterfly effect of little victories and removing players (and tanks) from the board that allow for later advantages.
Ennis also brings so much subtle heart to the characters. Not only pie eyed naive kids who are fated to die. He shows the weight of the war on Stiles and on higher officers. There’s no need for a quiet scene where he cries. War is hell and every decision might be the last but there are panels in which readers can see the mental switch flipped. No time to dwell now, there’s a mission to be done. I feel awe that millions of soldiers were able to do this and sadness that they had to live with that the rest of their lives. Even Stiles at the end of this collection is cracking under the weight of what he has gone through. However, he enlists for Korea because he doesn’t know what else to do. Returning to civilian life isn’t an option for men like him.
The Tankies may be my favorite release from Dead Reckoning. An action packed story full of all the excitement of war but also a personal story for Stiles’s quest to destroy his white whale of a tank. Highly recommended for all mature comic book readers.
(A copy of this book was provided by Dead Reckoning for review.)