War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #1


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War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #1


  • Words: Garth Ennis
  • Art: Howard Chaykin
  • Inks: Howard Chaykin
  • Colors: Brian Reber
  • Story Title: I: Bloody April
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Mar 19, 2008

WWI, the 88th squadron and a mysterious new pilot... Welcome to Hell.

Lieutenant Kauffman just flew in to his new home. He, like his plane, is loud and brash, ready to fight, but he is not what he appears to be. He has a romantic view of flight. His first impression to his officers is not complimentary, but will his ability in the air make up for their lack of faith? The First Flight is a bloody and action packed romp through the air of the first World War, with unexpected developments almost every other page.

Ennis takes us on a trip in the way back machine. It’s the spring of 1917 and after a little bit of air warfare history and science; he introduces us to his hero, singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic, no less. Ennis is in full on reverent mode here, but be warned this is a Max title and there is lots of blood. The characters are all cut out of an old war movie. With the exception of our protagonist, all the officers here are general issue. They have their rules (and their fair share of quirks), but seem to work as a cohesive team. They are reluctant to have a hot dog in their midst. The dialogue is quick and snappy. I am sure that some readers may be turned off by the use of the era’s vernacular; but to careful readers, it shouldn’t be too hard to grasp.

Chaykin has been in an artistic rut lately. With the Punisher books and Wolverine, everything was beginning to look the same. Seriously how many places can have the same wallpaper and style of chair. A change of scenery seems to breathe fresh life into his art. Instead of drab fleur-de-lis filled walls, we have a French wooded air strip. The distinguished face of company drunk Captain Clarke could belong to a character actor playing second fiddle to David Niven. You can almost hear the score in the background. The real star of the book, above even Ennis’s script, is the aerial action. Bloody and kinetic, it is like the comic book version of Howard Hughes’ Hell’s Angels. Good Stuff.

Here’s hoping that the first flight of the Phantom Eagle is one of many to come. Taut and mysterious with a cliff hanger leaving me wanting more and don’t even get me started on how beautiful Cassaday’s cover is.

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