I think I figured out why The Reivers, the first issue of the second War Story volume, doesn’t start the collection. Because you might stop reading the collection. It’s kind of actually bad, but it’s also a slog. Writer Garth Ennis churns out dialogue to get through the comic. The artist is Cam Kennedy, who has the same expression for all of the talking heads. He’s slightly better at the action? But there’s minimal action. And it’s also very aggrandized.
Kennedy draws Reivers like it’s an exciting adventure outing about an elite squad of British troops in the North African campaign. They’re the ones you call when you need to the ultra-violence. Most of the comic is the commanding officer talking to his sidekick about how they’re descended from the Reivers of yore, a practically mythological band of vicious warriors. We have to sit through at least a page of the commanding officer blathering about how the Reiver blood has traveled the globe, which explains why their outfit is so good, even though the men are from different places.
The sidekick basically rolls his eyes but in dialogue. Like another half-page to disagree.
Did Vertigo stick Ennis with what they thought would be more popular artists in an effort to bring up sales? If so, did Ennis intentionally write such a tepid comic for Kennedy to draw? Or did Ennis write this talky, sophomoric outing, and then they assigned it to Kennedy to… spice it up? Or was it a loser script so they got an artist who wouldn’t suffer? Maybe it was Ennis’s attempt at writing a stage play, and he’s just bad at it. The story behind Reivers is potentially so much more interesting than the book itself.
Eventually, the men go back into battle, and they have a reckoning. It’s slightly absurdist—Reivers feels like a more serious spin-off of Adventures in the Rifle Brigade while also forecasting Punisher: Born. Some of the commanding officer’s descriptions of his blood thirst sound a lot like Born. In other words, Reivers is very much at home with Ennis’s most middling works.
It opens with a silent sequence long enough I wondered if they were doing the story without dialogue. Little did I know it’d be more dialogue than the rest of the books combined. Big kudos to letterer Clem Robins. He did the best work on this one. But I’m getting scared for the last two War Story entries. The quality of the second volume so far is great and tripe. No in-between.
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