I haven’t been betting against Lion & the Eagle. The first issue assuaged any Aftershock fears I was having after writer Garth Ennis’s horror comic for the company. The second issue was excellent. I fully intended to be Ennis war comic weeping the next and final issue. But I wasn’t expecting Ennis to do anything major with the title; artist PJ Holden’s already doing the European album size. Being square and bigger is enough.
And then Ennis has a spectacular series of narrative jabs this issue, turning Lion over on its head a couple times before turning it around too. It’s incredible. Especially since he doesn’t do it until the second half of the issue. The first half’s full of exposition and action; the second half’s reflection on it. Only then Ennis completely changes the narrative distance on Lion after giving it some solid whacks as the doctor character tells the army guy what’s up a couple times, and the army guy’s got to sit with it. Then there’s a Communist soldier soapboxing about the military-industrial complex, and it’s phenomenal. I can’t give away the big twists, either. There are two, one with the narrative distance, one with the narrative. Both do peerless character development work. Ennis is on fire.
And Holden’s keeping up. This issue’s simpler—the occasional silhouette, more frequently white backgrounds—but more emotive. Holden focuses on how the scenes hit, whether they’re talking heads or the dramatic ones. Not to mention there’s a phenomenal battle scene. Holden scales from close-ups on emphatic white to gory, frenetic battle action. It’s a beautiful book.
So now I’m expecting an Ennis war comic weep and being floored by whatever he and Holden come up with. Ennis has been doing excellent war comics for over twenty years now, and, somehow, he keeps getting better. He leverages the natural exposition of military command—someone can always be explaining something to someone else—and then works in historical detail, but he’s breaking out of that norm with Lion. He’s using character relationships while also playing with narration.
This series will make a wonderful collection someday; hopefully hardbound and obviously oversized.