Charley’s War: Volume 3 – Remembrance
By Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun. Lettering by John Aldrich, Jim Campbell, Mike Peters, Peter Knight, Nigel Eaton, Clive Mcgee, Tim Skomski, and Paul Bensberg. Reprographics work by Joseph Morgan.
Bitter winter months grind against Charley’s humanity as he manages to survive into 1918. On both sides of No-Mans-Land there is a feeling that the war cannot last much longer. After all, there are so few soldiers left to continue the fight. Yet somehow the war keeps growing as country after country is drafted in to model the arms dealers’ wares.
Still, at least the victors will be able to claim it was all worth it, right?
Remembrance is the third and final volume of Charley’s War, following Boy Soldier and Brothers in Arms. The same creators praised so highly in those reviews bring fresh fire to this final arc.
It is worth repeating that this series was originally published weekly. Between 1979 and 1985, one writer, one artist, and one letterer worked to get their pages to print, with barely a pause for breath over the entire six years. They had no stand-ins to aid them, nor modern technologies to provide surely desirable short-cuts. To have simply succeeded in producing the pages would have been an admirable labour. To have produced them to such exemplary quality is outstanding.
This consistency of creators leads to a single, defiant voice infused within the saga from beginning to end. At the same time, they avoid the danger of complacently repeating a proven formula. Every week explores a new aspect of the war, a new side to a character, or a new step forward to the overall plot. Even more impressively, despite the episodic format these volumes have managed to divide the story into three distinctive and individually complete books. Boy Soldier establishes characters, setting, and stakes. Brothers at Arms develops two equal yet contrasting protagonists. Now Remembrance brings the inevitable conclusion.
If the second volume mostly holds focus on just a few characters, the third throws the scope of the war wide open. The carnage engulfs land, sea, and air. Earlier campaigns are revisited and shadows are thrown across the future. The rapidly shifting points of view bring a dizzying crescendo that keeps the audience guessing. The shape of history may be familiar to the reader, but there is no guarantee that the characters you love will survive to share your hindsight.
For all that Remembrance fulfils its narrative needs, the creators never let you forget that you are watching real deaths. The blood of the world pours from these pages, and it is clear whose hands it stains. Artist Joe Colquhoun handles the tragedy with respectful restraint. To some extent this may be due to the publishing standards of the time, but it serves to raise the impact of occasional, more explicit panels.
So as not to eclipse the comics, these reviews have waited until the end to mention the commentaries of writer Pat Mills, reprinted from the earlier Titan Books editions. Readers new to the complicated and contradictory mind of Mills will find plenty of interesting insight. Those already well versed in his points of view will find surprising moments of humility and self-deprecation.
One noteworthy comment is his regret that the pages are so crammed with material. Those who lament prestige format comics priced far beyond their budgets may wish to disagree. These volumes have gradually gained pages at no extra cost, this final book having over 350 pages of strip.
The pages may be densely filled, but this only serves as a further selling point. You would be hard pressed to find a comic that offers better value for money than the three volumes of Charley’s War.