Review – Hell in Stalingrad OGN

Main cover by PJ Holden

Publisher(s): Mad Robot Comics, Madius Comics
Writer(s): Matt Hardy, Rob Jones
Artwork: Russell MacEwan, Will McLaughlan WASM

Set during the Battle of Stalingrad, Russian troops have broken through the lines of the 6th Army and are herding the remnants of the German army into a pocket that the cannot escape. Those at the heart of this boiling Cauldron are fighting a fierce and desperate battle which will ultimately see the tide of war turn against Germany on the Eastern front. Ernst and Vassily, two soldiers on opposite sides of the war find themselves thrown together when an ancient evil bursts through into our world, threatening a far worse fate for humanity than even Hitler or Stalin could picture in their wildest fantasies.

Some time ago I wrote a review for this title based on a short preview. After an extraordinarily successful Kickstarter campaign I received my copy of the physical book a few days ago and after having some time to absorb the finished product, I thought I’d share a few things.

My initial assessment of the book was “what you’d get if Event Horizon was set in the middle of one of the bloodiest most horrific battles in the history of modern warfare.”, and I’m honoured to have that quote printed on the front of the softcover version of the book. Having read the whole story now, I still stand by that statement, but I’d caveat it by saying that this time Larry Fishburne isn’t going to save the day.

This is a great war story and a great horror story which manages to maintain a grim sense of humour in spite of its backdrop. I’ve been a fan of Madius Comics for a while now, and after seeing seen this collaboration with Mad Robot Comics, I will definitely be spending more time getting acquainted with the latter’s titles and upcoming projects.

I love what Matt Hardy and Rob Jones have created in this story, but I have to say that, for me, 80 pages isn’t enough to do this story justice. I may just be being greedy, but this could easily have been a 200+ page full size OGN without losing any of the impact, and the way the story ends there is certainly scope for sequels (please and thank you). That being said, the book that has been created is really superb as it is. The story is meant to fit the 80 pages we get, and I think that as much as I do want to see an expanded version of Hell in Stalingrad, the chaotic, apocalyptic pace of the story does suit the shorter book.

One thing that has surprised me is that I found the print edition to be a completely different animal than the electronic edition. This may just be because I’m getting old and I’ve always preferred having a physical book in my hands, but I think that the artwork comes across so much better here, particularly the textures and details of the mixed media style (also, for no good reason, I found that the story flowed better in this format). So, if you’re struggling between choosing a format I can heartily recommend picking up a print copy.

I have had a lot of fun with this book, I’ve revisited it a number of times over the last week, and I’ve found something new each time. The artwork is pretty unique, with heavy pencil sketches mixing with finely detailed pencils and inks, water colour blocking, photorealistic, scrap book, and pop-art to name but a few. There are a hundred reasons why this apparently random mix of style shouldn’t work but it really, really does. For me at least, it really brings out the insanity and disorientation of the situation, the blurring of reality as hell literally breaks loose. I can see where some would struggle with the art in this book, it’s not even close to what you’d expect in a typical comic but I thoroughly enjoyed having something unexpected and a bit of a challenge to work through.

I would like to hope that this is the first of a series of books with a similar theme, and I will leave a space on my shelf in the hope that this small act alone encourages Jones, MacEwan, Hardy, McLaughlan and Holden to put ink to paper again.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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