blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

War Story: J for Jenny (2003)

War Story J for JennyI meant to read War Stories in order of publication. Unfortunately, I got out of order here with J For Jenny, the second issue in the second volume but the first story in the collection. Because it’s David Lloyd on art again and, unlike the first volume, which ends with its Lloyd-illustrated story, War Stories: Part Two is coming out swinging.

Writer Garth Ennis has had some fantastic collaborations over the years, and even when he isn’t clicking with the artist, he can usually make something work. But he’s never clicked better with an artist than David Lloyd, at least not for a war comic. The visual pacing on Jenny’s extraordinary, even better than their collaboration in the first volume.

The story’s about a British bomber crew. The first officer hates the captain, who takes delight in the bombing runs, wanting payback against the Germans for killing his family in their bombings. The issue opens with a multiple-page monologue from the captain, setting the scene and his backstory. Ennis usually does single-page monologues for the rest of the crew throughout the issue. They inform backwards and forwards—the world still doesn’t know about the Holocaust—so when the first officer speaks up to defend the German people, it’s not the same as it would be later. One of the crewmen’s monologue is about how he wishes the Germans would be doing something really terrible to absolve him of the sins of the bombings. The issue doesn’t have an epilogue, but Ennis manages to bake in that character’s eventual regret at having the thought.

It’s excellent writing, including the “twist” ending and how character relationships build in the backgrounds. The spotlight is on the captain and the first officer, but the texture comes from the rest of the crew around them.

Lloyd illustrates the monologues as montage sequences, the art echoing the text, whether it’s backstory for the captain or daily life for one of the crewmen. Lloyd’s always got the perfect panel to accompany. It’s exquisite.

Since I’m out of order—how did Vertigo not want to get this one out first—I can’t really say War Stories: Volume Two is off to a good start, but Jenny’s the best from either series (so far, I guess, but Lloyd’s not back), so even if the rest of Volume Two’s middling, it’s still a significant bit of work.

It’s a spectacular comic, with Ennis focusing on the conflict between the two men, even as he resists humanizing either. The monologues give Jenny an almost intrusive feel, like we’re eavesdropping, which presents the characters from a deliberate angle. They’re not caricatures, but Ennis controls the reader’s perception of their depth. We only get to see so much before he or Lloyd cut away.

J For Jenny’s spectacular. Ennis and Lloyd are a singular team-up.

One response to “War Story: J for Jenny (2003)”

  1. Vernon W

    Gosh, I’ve read SO many Ennis war stories, I hope I’m getting this right, but J for Jenny,(or rather, his stories about aircraft and particularly bombers), that the crew was made up of the captain and four or five others. The captain was 24 years old, and the rest of crew younger. Now that scared the shit out of me. I can’t imagine the nerve, bravery, and guts it took a crew of men their extremely young age for the job the had to do. I know at 24 I would not been anywhere near such expectations. If for that one thing, Ennis’ war stories have such a realistic and tough finish on them at the end you can still deride or protest war, but you cant deny the bravery of the young people that fought it. On an ancient airplane. At night. Against all odds. As only teenagers or just past. Shit.

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