Writer: Michael Le Galli
Art: David Fabbri
Colours: Domenico Neziti
Letters: Gemma Sheldrake
Translated from the original French by: Ivanka Hahnenberger
Release Date: 29th May 2019
On the 5th of June 1944 thousands of men parachuted into Northern France to pave the way for OPERATION OVERLORD, the invasion of France by the Allied forces in the largest amphibian assault ever attempted. The first of four stories telling of the heroism of these men, this issue recounts the fight to take the town of SAINTE-MÉRE-ÉGLISE, a strategic staging point for the men soon to be landing at the section of the French Coast codenamed UTAH Beach.
Originally published in 1975, BATTLE started its life as a weekly comic that went through many evolutions in its thirteen year run and included titles such as Rat Pack, Darkie’s Mob, and Charlie’s War. Originally intended as a rival to WARLORD, Battle was a far grittier, far more genuine telling of these stories of war, and is why it became a favourite for many. As part of the continued drive to revive some of the best loved titles of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Rebellion have purchased IPC’s entire back catalogue and are re-publishing these titles.
BATTLE was by far my favourite, the stories seemed more honest about the reality of war and the historical articles about specific battles; comparisons of weaponry and vehicles were brilliant. This, for me, is pure nostalgia, taking me back to my childhood when you could still go to the local market and pick up some genuine WWII items, and if you were lucky, hear a story or two about their journey to that table.
At school, we studied WWII quite extensively and visited many of the famous battle sites in France, every one of us hoping to find a bullet or, if we’re really honest with ourselves, a hand grenade (ahh, kids…). Sadly long gone now, by age ten I had managed to collect many things relating to the War including my most prized possession, a genuine British Army bayonet… yes, in the olden days nobody blinked about selling 20 inches of wickedly sharpened steel to a ten-year old. Because I was brought up closely with grandparents, and their siblings, who had served in the war, I was always reading about it, whether it was purely historical or comics such as BATTLE, COMMANDO, WARLORD or VALIANT.
I’ve never read this particular series, but as it’s only ever been produced in French previously, perhaps I can be forgiven. This is the first of four stories charting acts of heroism in the lead up to, and execution of, Operation Overlord. As War stories go, this is told with the aforementioned taste of veracity that Battle was best known for. Whilst some of the acts in this story would definitely fall under the heading of heroic, Michael Le Galli shows the flaws in our heroes and some of the atrocities they are capable of committing in the name of revenge.
The character development and narrative in this story is well fleshed out. Each of the main characters gets their own biography in the form of a flashback and as this issue is around 45 pages, you get time to see them bond with each other, fight together, and, as is inevitable in war, die. Some are what would be described as heroic deaths, some are not and some are just bad luck, but each one has an impact on their comrades.
David Fabbri and Domenico Neziti do a pretty good job with the artwork in this story. The uniforms and equipment are all accurate, and the action is dynamic and really brings Le Galli’s characters to life. My only criticism of the artwork would be that it’s a little too clean and bright which, for me, detracts from the pace and tone of the story. There’s also not a massive amount of depth and shadow to the work which I really think would have conveyed a lot more tension.
I’m pleased to see the effort that Rebellion has put into bringing back comics that a lot of people thought were lost forever. I’ve been buying a lot of the recent reprints via their Treasury of British Comics label. The reprint of the Stories from BATTLE is one that I am sure has been eagerly awaited by many, many people and I’m looking forward to seeing what else we’re getting as well as having the opportunity to read a story I’ve never seen before.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek