Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: JOHNNY RED No.1

This week London based Titan Comics published Johnny Red No.1, an all-new 8 issue monthly comic mini-series reviving the WW2 fighter ace from long-defunct Battle comic weekly, thanks to an agreement with copyright holders Egmont UK. 

Of all the Egmont properties that Titan could have revived, it seems a brave move to bring back a war comics character. Johnny Red is only available in comics speciality shops, usually visited by customers mainly interested in SF, fantasy and superheroes. One would think that Adam Eterno, Doomlord, or even The Leopard of Lime Street would have been a better option for that demographic, but time will tell. What Johhny Red has on his side is fan favourite writer Garth Ennis, whose work is always worth a look, and artist Keith Burns, who is new to me but handles the artwork admirably.

The comic itself, although British, is in the American format, and has 32 full colour pages. The Johhny Red story is 20 pages in length and unexpectedly the first half is set in the present, concerning the salvaging and imminent repair of a familiar old Hawker Hurricane airframe. This is an aircraft that has seen some action in the past and the story eventually leads to a flashback to World War 2 when the plane was in its element. No prizes for guessing who the pilot is. 

As is often the case these days, this first issue is quite slow moving initially and full of exposition. Garth is clearly writing with the collected trade paperback in mind. Don't let that put you off though. The first issue sets up the story and it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. Keith Burns' artwork is very interesting. In some ways reminiscent of traditional British adventure comics, but also looking modern. His depictions of aircraft are wonderful and he's obviously the right man for the job.

There are also two back up features, with one giving the background of Johnny Red in Battle comic. Although it correctly credits Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun as the creators of the character, it makes no mention of artist John Cooper who illustrated most of the series. Quite disappointing, especially as they use some of John's art to illustrate the piece. Perhaps this will be rectified in a future issue. The second feature is a historical item on the Hawker Hurricane aircraft.

Johnny Red is a good, solid comic that I hope will appeal to old fans of the character as well as a new audience. It's great to see the character back and I for one will be following the rest of this series.    

Johnny Red No.1 (of 8), published by Titan Comics. $3.99 


meherenow said...

I think, bizarrely, Doomlord is owned by The Dan Dare Corporation as are most 80s Eagle properties, I'm sure the Hibernia reprints state this as the copyright.

Anyway, would be nice to see some new/rebooted Doomy stories, definitely my fave from 80s Eagle when I was a boy!

You mention Adam Eterno, have read a few stories here and there from my patchy Valiant collection (long before my time), but I like what I see - my personal pick from that time would be Janus Stark though, or The House of Dolmann! Surely the time is ripe for some reprints of those classic strips?!

Never was a big war comic fan but growing on me recently especially as my 9 year old and I are reading through the superlative Charley's War at the moment, difficult for me to read some panels out loud to my boy without the old voice cracking as the Mills/Colquhoun team effortlessly manage to convey all the emotions associated with war with such ease (just read an episode where the "conchey" has to, erm, "help" Charley out.....). The only way the story could hit home any harder would be for me to actually make my son wait a week in between those 3 and a half pagers!

Lew Stringer said...

Good point about the ownership of Doomlord! I'd forgotten that Fleetway sold off all the Eagle characters.

Janus Stark and Dollman appeared in the book Albion Origins if you can still find a copy!

meherenow said...

I have the Albion Origins book, this is what whet my appetite, disappointingly sparse compilation and I'm definitely looking for more.

Obviously, as we know, the bean counters have decided this is not viable.

Still a good read though which I would highly recommend!

Lew Stringer said...

There's hope that now Time Inc. own those IPC characters that maybe they'll be more willing to licence them out for a reasonable fee, but Time will tell. ;-)

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