Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist(s): Carlos Ezquerra, P. J. Holden
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Release Date: 12th April 2017
Dark Horse’s World of Tanks: Roll Out is based on the hugely popular online MMO game of the same name – a game I’ll freely admit I have absolutely zero experience of. However, when you strip away the licensed origins of the series, what you’re left with, essentially, is a Garth Ennis war story, and that’s something I think we can all get on board with.
Set in post-D-Day Normandy, this five-part miniseries follows a rookie British tank crew as they find themselves pushing into war-torn France to engage the retreating German forces. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in terms of the characters, but Ennis does a great job of establishing the camaraderie and shared insecurity of the team as they find themselves plunged headlong into the sharp end of the war effort.
Ennis also does a good job of making sure to represent both sides of the conflict, mirroring the British troops’ struggles by simultaneously showing things from the perspective of a German Panzer Crew. The similarities between the two sides are highlighted, as are the differences, and it makes for a far more balanced and enjoyable story as a result.
That said, there are moments where it becomes a little too much about tactical maneuvering and tank-based statistical analysis (an unfortunate necessity of the involvement with the largely strategy-based MMO, I’m assuming) rather than human drama, but for the most part Ennis does an impressive job of managing both, providing a series that is likely to appeal to fans of the game as much as it does to casual war comic readers.
The first couple of issues see Judge Dredd co-creator Carlos Ezquerra on art duties, providing his usual gritty, edgy take on the proceedings. His action moments are suitably dynamic, and the pained and shocked expressions of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict really help to underscore the gravity of the situation without resorting to unnecessary blood and gore. PJ Holden takes over from issue three onwards, adopting a slightly slicker, tidier style than Ezquerra, but still managing to excel in the tank-based portions of the story – a fortunate thing, given how prevalent these scenes are.
It’s also worth mentioning that as a collected edition, the series reads a lot better than it did as individual issues, with the series originally feeling a little unbalanced in terms of spreading the story out. As one single narrative however, Ennis’ narrative flows far better, and the pace of the story gradually builds throughout the course of the five issues, making us more and more invested about the men involved as their mission reaches its tense, emotionally-charged conclusion.
While I’m not sure how well this series ties into the online MMO that serves as its inspiration, what I am sure of is that Ennis, Ezquerra and Holden have crafted an enjoyable, engaging and visually impressive war story set during one of the most violent times in recent world history. If you’re a fan of military drama, you’ll love this, but even if war comics aren’t necessarily your thing, the strength of the narrative and the impressive nature of some of the visuals still make World of Tanks: Roll Out a worthwhile purchase.
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