This issue is a combination of fighter action and talking heads. And Ennis doesn’t have much to say with either of them. He’s doing a history lesson about the U.S. bombing runs on Japan. Nothing else. His characters don’t matter; he doesn’t even try to keep them straight. All they say is exposition. They don’t need to be distinct.
Aira’s art is better, as far as detail, on the fighter battles. Not in terms of composition. In terms of composition, he’s doing all right with the talking heads. Just not on the detail. But the last third of the issue is an air battle full of intrigue and disaster and Aira can’t break any of it out.
Maybe the most frustrating thing about War Stories–when it isn’t good–is how much Ennis throws at Aira without any acknowledgement of the artist’s strengths and weaknesses. War Stories is into its second year. Aira’s been on the book for a long time. Ennis is completely checked out with the final air battle, which is incredibly important visually (and should’ve been the whole comic with flashback inserts), just so he can get to his history lesson in the closing narration.
War Stories, with a real editor, could be consistently spectacular. Instead, it’s just frequently exasperating.