Best Shots Extra: Battlefields: The Night Witches #1

Preview: Battlefields: Night Witches #1

Battlefields: The Night Witches #1

From: Dynamite

Writer: Garth Ennis

Art: Russ Braun

Color: Tony Avina

Letters: Simon Bowland

Covers: John Cassaday and Gary Leach (72/25)

Review by Troy Brownfield

Preview here.

Few contemporary writers get the psychology of the war story like Garth Ennis. Known primarily for grounding the shockingly hilarious in the artful (Preacher, Hitman, The Boys, etc.), Ennis has also demonstrated a deep sensitivity regarding the plight of soldiers. Though he seems comfortable with different eras, he has a real affinity for World War II. This series (as discussed in this Newsarama interview) turns on a factual point: during WW2, the Soviet Union did in fact use female pilots in combat roles, sending them on bombing missions under the cover of darkness. This earned them the titular tag, “Night Witches”.

Ennis works in these pilots as one-half of the narrative POV. The other half is supplied by a group of German soldiers fighting deep inside of Russia. They’re far from home, tired, and disgruntled. A bit of internal conflict is supplied when soldier Graf demonstrates some sympathy for the enemy, a notion not shared by his commanding officer.

On the flip side, the female pilots contend with sexist peers, an exasperated Guards-Major, and out-dated equipment. The lead here is Lieutenant Anna Kharkova. Short enough that she needs a seat cushion to see out the cockpit, Anna approaches the enterprise with a sense of can-do optimism. It’s not a surprise that her worldview gets a bit shaken by the first mission.

At the art helm is Russ Braun, and he does great work here. His line frequently reminds me of Ennis’s Boys partner Darick Robertson. Both artists have a similar command of facial expressions and juxtapose fluid walking-and-talking sequences with eruptions of graphic violence. Tony Avina deserves good notices for the colors as well, particularly the night bombing sequence wherein the chaff and explosions illuminate the undersides of the planes; that’s excellent work.

If you’re into World War 2 as a research and reading concern, this is definitely worth a look. It covers an underreported aspect of the war, and does so with narrative balance. Fans of Ennis already know that he treats this type of material with respect, and the tale itself is accessible for new readers. Battlefields: The Night Witches #1 also shows a willingness to stretch on the part of Dynamite. Well-known (and deservedly so) for revitalizing familiar concepts, Dynamite distinguishes itself further by producing books of this nature. This is a strong read.

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