The Lion & the Eagle is oversize; bigger, squarish pages. Artist PJ Holden doesn’t fill the larger canvas with more panels, instead increasing the panels’ sizes, filling those larger pages with bigger content, not more content. Holden also does a lot of top-third double-page spreads; he’s clearly thinking it through.
So it’s unfair when the issue’s only problem seems like an art problem. It’s not; it’s an editing problem. The issue has a running flashback, and the transition returning to the past doesn’t work because it’s entirely about writer Garth Ennis’s narration, with a disconnected visual.
It had me confused and reading the issue mistaking one resolution for another. However, it’s an excellent comic even with the stumble, with Holden’s expressive, character-based art and Ennis’s combination of reflective and informative writing.
Lion & the Eagle is a World War II story; the protagonist is a white Indian army officer. They’re loading up to mount an offensive against the Japanese, who’ve been kicking their asses the last few years without the British government really taking note. It wasn’t until the Americans showed up with vehicles and weapons they’ve been able to even consider an advance.
The issue opens with the officer, Crosby, having a conversation about the state of the war with a Chinese observer. Crosby then goes and hangs out with his doctor best friend, Leonard McCoy… wait, no, Alistair Whitamore. They go from war politics to race politics, thoughtfully bantering; it’s a war buddy story.
While talking, Crosby remembers the time they first met; cue tense flashback.
Lion & the Eagle doesn’t spare the gore, though all of it is in flashbacks so far. While we get some context for the flashback’s resolution, all the information about the current operation—the series’s main plot—comes during dialogue exchanges, and the characters often talk about the impending mission.
Holden does a fabulous job with the talking heads. There are a lot of talking heads, including in the flashback, during non-combat action scenes. The art’s the most impressive thing about this larger format; what could’ve been a gimmick is not; as usual, Holden and Ennis are making something special.
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