Titan Books' long-delayed The Best of Battle has finally been published and, to coin a cliché, has been worth the wait. A chunky 288 page collection of strips from the long-running Battle Picture Weekly comic of the 1970s (then published by IPC, but now owned by Egmont) which features artwork by some of the industry greats.
Inspired by D.C. Thomson's Warlord comic, Battle (as it became known) was a far tougher comic than most of its predecessors at IPC (such as Jet and Thunder). Whilst these stories still stray into the cringe worthy "Achtung Englander" type territory, and D-Day Dawson's exploits are somewhat far fetched, they also offer a grittier portrayal of warfare than had been seen in other comics of the period.
The book reprints a selection of stories from 18 different strips, ranging from the obvious choices (Charley's War, Johnny Red) to the more obscure (Panzer G-Man, Crazy Keller). Each strip is fronted by bonus material, - brief background notes on the characters and anecdotes from people who worked on the comic such as Pat Mills and Dave Hunt.
There are a few little mistakes in the book. At one point Mike Western is referred to as Chris Western (mixing him up with modern artist Chris Weston), and the D-Day Dawson art is solely credited to Colin Page when most of the selection features Geoff Campion art. It's also a bit strange that whilst we're told that Hold Hill 109 was a complete mini-serial in just six episodes the book stops short at chapter four. However, these are minor niggles and not something that should deter buyers.
Titan have wisely presented the book in a cheap softback value-for-money format for a R.R.P. of £9.99 rather than the hardback slick format of their Steel Claw and Spider volumes. Nevertheless, reproduction is first rate, with solid black inks and good clear linework.
The back of the book offers a welcome surprise for fans of the genre: "coming soon" from Titan Books will be individual solo collections for Johnny Red, Darkie's Mob, Rat Pack, and Major Eazy.
The Best of Battle is a superb collection of some of the finest UK adventure strips of the 1970s. With artwork by Joe Colquhoun, Geoff Campion, Carlos Ezquerra, Mike Western, Eric Bradbury and more it's a perfect example of a solid era of British comics. Copies are available from the Forbidden Planet website at a discount and you can order your edition here: