By Garth Ennis, Carlos Ezquerra and Michael Atiyeh
Online game developer Wargaming.net and Dark Horse comics join forces to publish the all-new addition to the Wargaming Battle Universe, World of Tanks: Roll Out. The new comic book mini-series is set during World War II and is written and drawn by frequent collaborators Garth Ennis (Preacher) and Carlos Ezquerra (Strontium Dog). If you’re excited about this powerhouse team up, and you absolutely should be, then you’ll be glad to know they’ve actually worked together on a wartime comic book before called War Story: Condors (Vertigo, 2003), which took place during the Spanish Civil War. They join forces once again to bring us an epic told in five issues and released in conjunction with video games inspired by the comic’s story.
Both Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra are legends in the comics industry with Ezquerra credited as a co-creator of 2000 A.D.’s Judge Dredd, and responsible for the character’s look – a design which inadvertently had a heavy influence on Dredd’s premise and setting. That’s why, in World of Tanks: Roll Out, you get a sense of true comic book professionalism in every single panel. The first issue is written to inform, so there’s a lot of info coming across. Fortunately none of it’s a waste and the dialogue is engaging and colorful with hefty doses of genuine military jargon. The artwork enhances the story by way of emotional and animated characters that look how they feel. Anger is as vivid as fear and equal to the intensity of the (literally) explosive battle sequences. There are people in those tanks and the tanks are lining up against each other. We all know how the war played out, but here’s a chance to get up close and personal during volatile exchanges with alarming casualties. At times, you’ll even feel like you’re there, which is fitting for a comic book doubling as a video game. Colorist Michael Atiyeh is carrying his weight over at Dark Horse these days and seems to be on every other title. Atiyeh’s work is diverse and he’s clearly able to render anyone’s art style. It’s a treat to see his colors bringing Ezquerra’s line work to life, making it believable and enhancing the action, which is when his work really shines. There’s a delicate balance between drama and brilliant action here and that brilliance is as much Atiyeh’s doing as anyone’s when the canons fire.
War as a genre in comics is thanks mainly to WWII and stands as one of the first major multi-genres in the medium. The theme of war has assisted in rooting superheroes in the real world from before the end of WWII up to present day. Besides the aforementioned War Story by writer Garth Ennis and a variety of artists, the genre includes many popular titles such as Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, Sgt. Rock, The ‘NAM and Unknown Soldier to name a few. There’s an undeniable excitement that comes with these stories, as well as a desire to learn more about the subject by way of historically accurate fantasy. No matter how plausible the setting for a war comic, or how factual the premise, reading a comic book is obviously not the same as being there. It’s opportunities like games and books – not to mention TV and film – that allow the subject matter to become more accessible. That accessibility has worked it’s way into pop culture and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So, whether you’re fan of these types of comics already, or you’re just picking one up for the first time, World of Tanks: Roll Out is about as exciting as it gets. As of this first installment we get to know a lot about the soldiers involved and the stakes they are up against. Neither side is safe and everyone is living under constant threat of battle, which, when it finally erupts, doesn’t seem containable without a degree of devastation. Gaming fans will likely want to play World of Tanks as soon as they’re done reading it. As for the comic book, this is realism at it’s finest and a sure bet for your pull list.