By Garth Ennis, Carlos Ezquerra, P.J. Holden, Michael Atiyeh, and Isaac Hannaford
You can almost feel the mechanical rumble of tank tread pulverizing a muddy battleground along with the earth-shaking force of a mighty explosion within close proximity. Embattled tanks and weary soldiers, once again, make ideal content for another quality WWII comic book.
Online game developer Wargaming.net and Dark Horse Comics teamed up last year to publish the all-new addition to the Wargaming Battle Universe, World of Tanks: Roll Out. Now you can get the first five issues in a single book, and make no mistake, you really should pick this one up. It’s worth the investment and then some.
War comics are a part of a long-standing tradition in comics, and writer Garth Ennis has done his part to contribute to that tradition over the years. In this latest effort, Ennis provides a story drenched in a thrilling context worthy of the big screen. However, thanks in part to his artists World of Tanks: Roll Out works just fine as a graphic novel. This collected edition is a must-have for fans of the creators involved, comics in general, and of course, war as a genre. If in fact you can’t get enough of World of Tanks, rest easy because this comic ties into the video game of the same name. More than a companion piece, “Roll Out” stands on it’s own as proof that there’s still plenty of room for originality even when dealing with a topic or genre as tried and true as WWII is. In this case, it’s more about how the story is told, although the story itself is certainly compelling.
This comic is authentic, but not boring. It’s exciting, yet historically accurate. That is the delicate balance that must be struck when depicting war without glorifying it and providing a potentially educational context without putting readers to sleep. And with all the cannon fire and explosions in this comic, it’s anything but bland. Garth Ennis writes new and severe consequences on almost every page creating a thrill-ride that you won’t be able to put down. You’ll most likely want to reread it all over again soon enough too. It’s action-packed without relying on gore and the drama between battles is full of intensity in its own right. The characters are what keep the story captivating to a degree, with dialogue that sets up the violence as much as it takes pause from the action scenes.
Ennis joins up with his regular collaborator, artist Carlos Ezquerra of 2000 AD fame. They’re back together, but this isn’t their first time working on a war comic, they also joined forces on the well-known War Story by Vertigo back in 2003. They’re at it again and better than ever as Ezquerra draws the first two chapters in this collection. Ezquerra has old school sensibilities that complement the subject perfectly. He provides a raw savagery, which, despite being beautifully illustrated, shows you that there actually isn’t anything pretty about the fighting itself.
Carlos Ezquerra may be a hard act to follow, but luckily it’s the legendary P.J. Holden who flawlessly executes the last three chapters. Holden, yet another veteran from 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, allows the book to feel cohesive from start to finish. Both artists are of the same ilk to the point where you may not notice what is a subtle shift in style. They share an ability to create strong, traditional panel arrangements, though Holden has a slightly more dynamic approach to his layouts. P.J. Holden draws genuinely thoughtful facial expressions, even in moments of sheer terror, and part of why his art works as well as it does is due to his panels. Holden brings the action up close at all the right moments without sacrificing the magnitude and scope of the story. World of Tanks: Roll Out contains a level of realism while maintaining professional artwork, which is nothing short of perfectly appropriate for comic books.
Colorist Micheal Atiyeh, who has a hand in a lot of Dark Horse titles, brings it all together by providing a consistent tone throughout. Fire burns hot, smoke suffocates, and in a way that may not generate the same emotional responses in black and white. The contrast between dirty, rusted metal and fairly serene surroundings is stark thanks to Atiyeh’s ability to both realize the script and render the artists’ styles. There’s no sensationalism in his painterly style of coloring, and it’s as if Atiyeh let’s the story speak for itself. He does his job just right and in a style that is pleasing to the eye. More than once he could have tried elevating a situation through digital effects or overly dramatic color palettes, but instead Michael Atiyeh does the book justice but staying true to the source material and creating another layer of realism.
With stunning, near photo-real cover art by Isaac Hannaford, you really can’t go wrong with this comic. World of Tanks: Roll Out is a fantastic war comic with the highest quality artwork from cover to cover. The action continues with the online gaming component, so there’s something for everyone. Ultimately you won’t want to miss out on creators displaying what it is that makes them so well known and qualified for this type of project. World of Tanks comes complete with a brand of storytelling that is essentially everything you need for a terrific reading experience.