Battlefields: Happy Valley #1


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Battlefields: Happy Valley #1


  • Words: Garth Ennis
  • Art: P.J Holden
  • Colors: Tony Avina
  • Story Title: $2.99
  • Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
  • Release Date: Dec 23, 2009

Battlefields is proving to be Garth Ennis’ labor of love. It’s a series of minis depicting the small corners and not as commonly known aspects of the World War II. In these typically three issues stories, Ennis focuses on one person or a small group of characters, and through correspondence and letters, gives a first person account of their travails.

In the newest edition, Happy Valley, we are introduced to the 444 Squardon, an Australian bomber unit with only three ops left of their tour. Our entry character is a young and fresh pilot by the name of Ken Hardy, who is thrown in with this lot, much to their chagrin.  No one wants an untested pilot at the helm when things get hairy and the boys are very vocal about their concerns. None is more so outspoken than Masher, the squadron’s alpha male with a heart of gold. He’s the kind of man that would share a beer with you or take a bullet for you with the same level of ease if you have his respect.

Ennis tells us this in a three-page sequence showing Masher switch from jovial mirth to straight up anger when hearing about a potential chink in his squadron’s armor. He is not concerned with hurt feelings when his mates are involved. It is a very well done use of pacing that tells us more about the man than a chapter full of text. The issue itself chronicles Hardy earning the respect of his crew and creating a war-time bond with these men.

Using the story device of a letter written by Hardy to his father provides the tale with a first person perspective that comes off as honest and sincere amongst all the amped up testosterone. It also takes the place of what could have easily become overly sentimental text boxes or thought balloons in a story so steeped in reality.

Having no knowledge of the actual events or details of these soldiers’ day to day lives, Ennis does a fine job of throwing the reader into the thick of it and giving you all the info you need succinctly. He does not write down to his audience, but also does not show off his obvious knowledge of the subject. It is accessible at the same time as inclusive, working as a story on its own, but also inspiring the reader to find out more about the time and actions of these characters’ counterparts. Such should be the intent of all historical fiction. It should educate as well as entertain. Ennis knows this and masterfully pieces together a fine adventure.

The art chores by P.J. Holden suit the story and time frame wonderfully, maintaining a real feel, while also keeping one foot in the pulp style that littered the news stands of the time. Some scenes are reminiscent of Darick Robertson’s more recent work with Ennis on The Boys, but that can be attributed to the books sharing colorist, Tony Avina. All in all, it is very good, kinetic art that captures the emotions and actions of the story without overshadowing it.

Many may think that you need to be a so-called “war buff” in order to enjoy Ennis series. Having read very few war comics myself, I can tell you that all you need to be is a fan of a good story. The details of its timeframe are almost irrelevant, focusing on the men more than the mission. It’s as if the war only acts as a conduit for these tales of bravery and valor. I think I may have finally understood the appeal, having in the past gotten bogged down by the minutia and fact checking. It inspires us to learn more as opposed to telling us that we should know it.

Battlefields: Happy Valley
comes highly recommended. The previous missed trades may end up on this guy’s reading list sooner rather than later.

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