War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #1 (of 5) (Marvel – Ennis / Chaykin / Reber)
Set against the grim backdrop of Word War I, mysterious aviator Karl Kaufmann arrives on the western front dressed outlandishly and at the controls of his own plane. Overconfident and full of romantic ideals, he has come to fight and kill the Hun. But soon Kaufmann confronts staggering loss and witnesses violence on a scale he has never imagined. In the process, he learns the harsh truth of conflict: war is hell.
If Marvel is trying to rekindle the “War comic”, they have probably found the right story-teller. Garth Ennis provided a deep, if not darkened plot about a young idealist who wants to help his country and fight the bad guys… but finds out there is more to being a true military hero and patriot than just flexing your muscles, striking a pose and getting the girl. This book is set just days after America has entered WW I and the forming of the first American fighter squadron. War is Hell does a good job (at least in part one) of showing the balance of honor and horror of being on the frontlines. That with being a combat hero, comes the weight of responsibility.
In this first issue we don’t get any real information on Karl’s background, except he has his own plane, some forged papers and has close to no experience. Howard Chaykin’s visuals are good, giving unexpected angles and prospectives, making the reader re-think what he is seeing. I have a funny feeling that is new series from Marvel might hit home with any of the real life heroes who are presently in the U.S. Military. Pullbox Warning: This is a Marvel Max book, which means not for the kids, primarily for war-related gore and violence.
Issue grade: B+
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