303 #6


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303 #6


  • Words: Garth Ennis
  • Art: Jacen Burrows
  • Inks: Jacen Burrows
  • Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
  • Story Title: Black Arrow
  • Publisher: Avatar Press
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Oct 19, 2005

The nameless Russian Colonel finally reaches the end of his bloody quest.

This miniseries draws to a close and as it does the War on Terror takes center stage. Talking heads and media stand-ins debate the subject as the Russian acts. The nameless protagonist fulfills the duty he set for himself back in issue #2 and makes his mark on history.

Garth Ennis has managed an almost magical feat of compression throughout this series and he brings it to fruition here. He has bundled a number of social and political themes together and reduced them to one symbol– a Lee-Enfield 303 rifle.

The British-made weapon comes to stand for Great Britain’s former Imperial Power, and it is no coincidence that the man carrying the rifle is a Russian since his people are also heirs to former Imperial glory under both the Tsar and Communist rule. Conversely, the 303 also stands for all of the ordinary men who have carried its like into battle through the years. From British foot soldiers to Afghan rebels, these men, in Ennis’ eyes, were warriors. These were men of honor, who understood the 303 as a precision weapon, one that took skill and training to use well.

The rifle has an elemental nature; it is made of wood and iron, not high-tech plastics and compound metals. This, combined with its history in conflict, make it a tool of the past. In this issue it becomes raised to the position of a force of history, as is the man who wields it. Man and rifle become one and represent the unchanging, undeniability of the past.

A 303 is also a symbol of a different type of warfare; a time before war evolved into something distant and dispassionate. Ennis is harkening to a time when war was about men facing one another and respecting one another even as enemies, not about computers and long distance ‘surgical’ strikes.

There are, in fact, so many issues bundled into the six issues of this miniseries you would think that the story would strain. It does not. Even this last issue almost feels too short; the climax comes before the reader has a chance to really digest everything. If there is any failing here it is the use of ‘talking heads’ at the opening. While this allows Ennis to bring in the voices of common Americans, it feels a little too contrived. It rips away some of the nuances that Ennis has spent the last five issues building.

The art here is solid and well suited for the story. The Russian is a big, bull of a figure. Human, yet still capable of carrying all the symbolism heaped on the character. Burrows is particularly good at capturing the characters’ eyes. Quite often in the series emotions are displayed there and not in the faces themselves. There was also a lot of research put in on the various weapons which are used in this issue and throughout the series. Each one has been faithfully reproduced.

This is not a comic book that you read and then put away. The story sticks in your head and the themes and topics rattle around in the back of your brain. Long after you close the cover on this last issue you’ll still be hearing the echo of Ennis’ 303.

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