We all know by now that Garth Ennis has a real love of writing war comics. But in modern comics, there’s just not that much opportunity to write war comics, which may well be why we find Ennis’ name on World Of Tanks II: Citadel.
If you didn’t already know, World of Tanks is one of those massively multiplayer online game things. You go online, grab yourself a tank from some historical battle and load up for the fight. I have to admit from the off that that’s pretty much all I knew of it before seeing the press for this new series. Reading up a little and I find out it’s actually something that prides itself on getting the historical accuracy as pretty much spot on as possible. And you can definitely see where that would be a lot more appealing for Ennis than just writing a comic about a game with some tanks in it.
“What about those Panthers? Do you think we’ll see any of them?”
“What are you, some kind of tank-spotter?”
It would be pretty easy and cheap to say that the connection between comic and game begins and ends with the title, but it’s just not so. Ennis always puts great detail into his war comics to make it as historically accurate as possible, but here it’s obvious that the machinery is the star, with each different tank involved introduced with the military equivalent of a petrol head’s joy at reviewing the latest Ferrari.
And you know what? I’ve got no problem with that at all. Ennis and artist PJ Holden have managed to take the essence of the game, the love of getting the details just right, and worked it into a simple, but intriguing opener to this comic series.
Ok then, here’s the setup…
Citadel is set on the Eastern Front of WWII in 1943, with the Russians and the Germans facing off in what they’re both convinced is a pretty bloody dumb battle.
Sure, there’s a focus on the tanks involved, but with Ennis at the helm, there’s enough characterization to make it a lot more than a simple tank-spotting exercise. It’s all kept as simple as it can get, with the cover giving you all the characters you’re going to need; the Germans are Karl Kraft and Freddie Stadler, the Russians are Captain Piotr Piotrowicz and Natalya ‘Ginger’ Pulkhova. It’s going to be a two-a-side game this one, keeping it good and simple. Two Panzer driving Germans heading out to the Eastern Front, watching the Tigers, the new Panthers and the Ferdinands, complete with obnoxious drivers, with a mix of jealousy and frustration. A little R ‘n’ R before they head off to battle and then it’s off we go.
But first, we meet the highly experienced and highly pissed off Russian captain, his wise-cracking younger driver having to deal with the crap machinery they’ve been gifted… who knew the Russians got hold of our terrible machinery, eh?
Spectacular bit of comedy moment from artist PJ Holden there, the Captain’s face and expressive hand delivering the gag of Ennis’ words with some style. There are a few pages of very Ennis-y dialogue as the Captain bitches and moans about the shite Brit tanks he’s been saddled with, a reward for doing so well in the last battle. Wonderful bit of Russian logic; you did incredible things with crap tanks last time against unbelievable odds, so as your reward, here’s a tank that’s even worse. Enjoy!
And then we switch to the Germans, where our two featured officers are having just the opposite problem. They’re already driving the impressive Panzer, and now they’re finding themselves surrounded by the new Tigers and Panthers, as well as the tank busting Ferdinands. A veritable embarrassment of riches indeed.
So, the Russians are well aware of just terrible their vehicles are, and the Germans know that they must win or open the road to Berlin. We’re off and running towards the inevitable confrontation to come.
The first World of Tanks series also had Ennis in the writing seat, but art was provided by the incredible veteran 2000AD artist Carlos Ezquerra. Here it’s another 2000AD artist, PJ Holden. I’ve loved his Dredd work for several years, and it’s a delight to see him getting everything just so damn right in Citadel. There’s a solidity to his artwork that’s supplemented by something slightly more abstract, but Holden’s always just on this side of realistic, and yes, until I’m told otherwise by those with more WWII knowledge than I, his detailing, whether it’s the tanks or the uniforms of those inside, is spot on. And there’s some beautiful work in this first issue, where Holden’s appreciation of the machinery against the big vistas, and the equally big sky of the Eastern Front is just gorgeous. Credit as well to colorist Michael Atiyeh for the sumptuous hues throughout this first issue.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from World of Tanks, after all, adaptations of video games aren’t exactly notorious for giving us incredible comics, but with Citadel, I think Ennis and Holden have delivered something impressive, character driven yet still sticking to the idea of the tanks being the real stars of the show.
World Of Tanks II: written by Garth Ennis, art by PJ Holden, colors by Michael Atiyeh, letters by Rob Steen, cover by Isaac Hannaford. Published by Dark Horse Comics and on the shelves of your local comic store right now.