Darkie's Mob


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Darkie's Mob


  • Words: John Wagner
  • Art: Mike Western
  • Publisher: Titan Books
  • Price: £16.99
  • Release Date: Mar 25, 2011

Darkie’s Mob: a descent into monochromatic Hell…

Darkie’s Mob, for those who don’t know it, is a serialized strip which ran in the British war comic Battle Picture Weekly from August 1976 to June 1977 and is collected in this hardcover edition by Titan Books. Written by the ever reliable John Wagner, a man who has made a career out of creating hard bitten heroes, and drawn by the amazing - and sadly underappreciated - Mike Western, Darkie’s Mob is a strip which the uninitiated could be forgiven for thinking is just another war story of good guys versus bad guys, the heroic allies versus the evil Japanese. In fact, it’s anything but.

There are no heroes in Darkie’s Mob. These are a group of men, soldiers stranded in the jungles of Burma in 1942 after the loss of their commanding officer, who have been pushed to the limit and beyond. And the man who has pushed them to that limit, even more so than the Japanese (who are indeed depicted as brutal to the point of being inhuman) is the enigmatic Captain Joe Darkie, a soldier seemingly without a past.

Darkie, though, "saves" them only in order to turn them into his own private army; a ragtag, undisciplined bunch of raiders living and frequently dying in the jungle for the sake, not of their country, but of one man’s insane quest for revenge. Darkie is a thug, a fanatic, completely without scruples and, as the strip progresses it becomes clear, lacking any regard for human life. Yet his ever diminishing squad follows him, all the while knowing that he is slowly corrupting them, turning them into copies of himself. And only one man, Private "Shorty" Shortland, knows at least a part of their leader’s secret; that there is not, and never has been, a British soldier named Joe Darkie…

Darkie’s Mob is by turns a war story and a mystery, relentlessly grim, brutal and uncompromising (the scene in which one of the Mob is effectively crucified and left to die after betraying his comrades is quite shocking even today), but compelling and with a cast of characters who, though we know them only briefly, we come to relate to, so that their almost inevitable demise is always something of a wrench. It’s a rollercoaster ride towards inescapable doom, which is as impossible for the reader to get off as it is for the Mob themselves - men living on borrowed time who know there’s no way they’re getting out of that steaming jungle alive. And it’s probably one of the best things John Wagner has ever written, which is really saying something.  Once read, never forgotten.

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  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Nov 16, 2011 at 5:39pm

    Nice review Tony. Truly a classic of British weekly comics...

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Nov 17, 2011 at 3:56am

    this has been on my wishlist forever but this settles it. probably buy as a christmas present for myself :)

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