To End All Wars – a Graphic Anthology of The First World War

teawPublished by Soaring Penguin
Hardcover 320 Pages
£18.99 – £2.00 from each copy donated to Medicins Sans Frontieres

Edited by Jonathan Clode & John Stuart Clark

Introduction by Pat Mills

With all the commemorations to the First World War that are going on this book is a must read.

This is an anthology of 26 stories written and illustrated by men and women of different nations. It deals with the life and death of people who were touched by the conflict between 28th July 1914 and 11th November 1918, of different nations.

The stories are varied and on the whole deal with real events, in some cases real people. There is a little satire here and there but in the main the subject matter is presented frankly.

With a brilliant introduction from Pat Mills, writer of the classic WWI comic epic Charley’s War. Charley’s War has an honesty that doesn’t diminish the men and women who lost their lives in this conflict. Truth isn’t always present in the way a nation portrays its history. I see this from a British perspective and am happy to say that if you look for the truth regarding the First World War it is fairly easy to find. But in some cases you do have to look hard.

In the words of Pat Mills from his introduction (and highlighted on the back of this book)

“This anthology you have in your hands is an important one because comics are one of the few media voices the establishment has yet to muzzle… I found these stories heartfelt, passionate, clever, controversial, thought provoking, original and often crying out for sequels’

So some of the details in this book may well be new to you, certainly I learnt a few new things. After all it is a time now long separated from us. Or is it?

The last British veteran of WWI, Henry John “Harry” Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009), has left this world but the echoes of WWI are around us. Of course for one thing the breaking up of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to WWII and the Yugoslav Wars spanning 199 to 1999. The current conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, are in part due to the restructured maps post 1918.

So yes, history of WWI is relevant to today and these stories make that history very accessible to this generation. I’ve already recommended it to friends and I recommend it strongly.

I would like to comment on all the stories but I am conscious that to do so would make this review rather long, I have included a full list of the stories at the end of this article. I am picking out three of the stories.

The Iron Dice written and illustrated by Brick is a slightly satirical look at the war with the dead of the war attending a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Several heads of state are questioned by ‘The Good Soldier’. The story looks at the cause of the war in historical context. Well written and wonderfully illustrated I can only imagine this is one of the stories referred to in the introduction where Pat Mills said ‘and often crying out for sequels’.

The Cowards War written by editor Jonathan Clode and illustrated by Matt Scoffe. Thomas Highgate was the first of 306 soldiers of the British Army executed for cowardice and/or desertion. The British Government gave a mass pardon in 2006 to all these soldiers. Given what we know now regarding ‘Shell-shock’ and Post Traumatic Stress it is almost certain that most, if not all, these men were suffering from extreme mental illness at the time. Also perhaps you should consider the case of Private Herbert Burden who had lied that he was two years older so he could join the Northumberland Fusiliers and was executed on 21 July 1915 aged 17, still too young to legally be recruited.

Between the Darkness written by Petri Hänninen and illustrated by Neil McClements tells of the chaos on the battlefield. Av German tank crew have commandeered a French tank and are stuck in no man’s land, held fast by mud. A claustrophobic script with a bitter-sweet ending brilliantly illustrated.

The book is excellently put together. As I mentioned earlier it is a nice mixture of subtopics and styles to keep the readers’ interest. The volume itself is beautiful, tactile and made with excellent paper stock. Below is a video I have ‘borrowed’ from the To End All Wars blog to show you what the book looks like.

Contents

The Iron Dice
Written & Illustrated by Brick

Kapitan Fritz’s Day Trip to Yarmouth
Writer: Michael Crouch
Artist: Shawn Wagner
Letterer: April Brown

The Coward’s War
Writer: Jonathan Clode
Artist: Matt  Soffe
Letterer: Jim Campbell

The Bitter Harvest
Writer: Steve Earles
Artist: Johnny McMonagle
Letterer: Bolt-01

Bottomley – Brand of Britain
Writer: Andrew Luke
Artist: Ruairi Coleman
Letterer: John Robbins

Every Man for Himself
Writer: Chris Colley
Artist: Patrick Walsh
Letterer: April Brown

Between the Darkness
Writer: Petri Hänninen
Art: Neil McClements
Letterer: Brick

The Legend of the Leaning Virgin
Writer: Lotte Grünseid
Artist: Jenny Linn-Cole

Allies of Reason
Written & Illustrated by Steven Martin
Letterer: Jenny Linn-Cole

Only Remember
Writers: Chris Colley & Faye Turner
Artists: Jessica Martin & John Maybury
Letterer: Brick

Il Gatto
by Stuart Richards

The Final Confession of Madame MacLoed
Writer: Susan Wallis
Artist: Ezequiel Rosinga
Letterer: Kel Nuttall

Live and Let Live
Writer: Sean Michael Wilson
Artist: Christopher Martinwz
Letterer: April Brown

The Orderly
Written & Illustrated by Rebecca Burgess

Truth Be Told
Writer: Pippa Hennessy
Artist: Danos Philopoulos
Letterer: John Clark

Dead in the Water
Writer: Ian Douglas
Artist: SM

Where Others Follow
Writer: Dan Hill
Artist: Todor Hristov
Letterer: April Brown

Go Home and Sit Still
Writer: Selina Lock
Artist: Arthur Goodman

No More Than Cattle
Writer: Colm Regan
Artist: Mike-Litto

The Hunter
Writer: Sean Fahey
Artist: Borja ‘Borch’ Pena
Letterer: Kel Nuttall

Mud, Lice and Vice
by Gary and Warren Pleece

The Black Chair
Writer: Jonathan Clode
Artist: Catherine Pape

The Stainless Steel Elephant
Writers: Russell Wall and James Guy
Artist: Ariela ‘Rie’ Kristantina

The Angel and The Hound
Writer: Lex Wilson
Artist: Robert Brown

Die and Become
Writer: John Stuart Clark
Artist: Sarah Jones

Memorial to the Mothers
Writer: Joe Gordon
Artist: Kate Charlesworth

 

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