A long, long time ago before the days of 2000AD, there was Battle Picture Weekly, a boys adventure comic published in the UK that featured such total classics like Charley’s War, Darkies Mob, Major Easy and Johnny Red, the story of a disgraced British fighter pilot sent to serve with a Soviet fighter squadron.
Battle was a massively influential comic for what it did for British comics by giving them a solid hard kick up the arse, and one of those people that loved it was Garth Ennis who has spoken often about how Battle shaped his style.Now thanks to Titan Comics, Ennis gets to have a go at Johnny Red and his Hurricane fighter plane.
Ennis starts the story in the present as Johnny’s Hurricane is being bought by an American millionaire, Iverson, so this allows Ennis to do a potted history of the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane fighter and in particular Ennis makes the history of this particular fighter a mystery for our millionaire to search out in order to bring readers up to speed that might be under the age of 40 and reading Johnny Red for the first time….
Upon arriving in Russia, Iverson meets a very, very old man that says he knows the plane and can answer his questions, and indeed, he knows the plane very well.
All this slow build-up pays off as we finally see the Hurricane in action during the siege of Stalingrad..
And suddenly I’m eight again eagerly reading Battle and lapping every single page up. Ennis paces this comic perfectly so if you’ve never read a Johnny Red story, you’ll get it by the final page, and if you have, you’ll love this. It’s like hearing a long-forgotten song come on the radio or pop up in your YouTube recommendations. It’s perfect.
As for the artist Keith Burns he’s channeling a bit of Joe Colquhoun and a lot of Carlos Esquerra but he has his own style which is very firmly rooted in those halcyon days of boy’s adventure comics.
Johnny Red is a joy. If you’re of a certain age and don’t have a wee tear in your eye reading this then you’re dead from the scalp down….