Preview: Fight Or Die On The Eastern Front With The Return Of ‘Deathsquad’

by Richard Bruton

The Eastern Front, WWII, one of the most hellish of all combat zones in the war. Into this, the Germans throw together a group of outcasts and misfits into the dreaded punishment squads. Fight or die – this is the Deathsquad – reprinting the classic Battle Action series from Alan Hebden and Eric Bradbury.

Reprinting the acclaimed series from Battle Action, Deathsquad does what few British comics would do and tells a brutal tale of war from the point of view of the Germans.

Series writer Alan Hebden (credited as M. Andrew) references the works of Sven Hassel in his introduction, with the writer wanting to fill Deathsquad with all the dark humour of a fighting unit made up of the criminals and outcasts of the German Army, all thrown together in these punishment units and then dropped into the hell of the Eastern Front.

And through Deathsquad, along with all the incredible detail brought to the page by Eric Bradbury’s art, Hebden delivers on all he wanted to do.

So, it’s time to discover the world of the Deathsquad – Grandad, Licker, Swede, Gus, and Frankie, none of them wants to be here, none of them expects to get out alive. Sent into a series of seemingly suicidal missions, success against all the odds turns the squad into an elite unit – a classic case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. A mission in a rusted Tiger tank against the might of the Russian T-34s turns on its head thanks to their willingness to break the rules, freezing Russian winters mean the squad has to liberate some warm enemy gear, a crazy op takes them through Moscow’s Underground to knock out a tank factory, and so much more – all done with a sense of every mission could be the last.

These are thrilling stories, perfectly constructed, with Hebden having to get a full beginning, middle, and end with just three pages for each, satisfying as a whole but also carrying the story forward until next week. It’s an excellent example of how to make condensed storytelling work and one that only succeeds due to the skills of Eric Bradbury as an artist, packing each and every page with detail, getting in every plot beat, yet never allowing the storytelling and flow to be lost.

As you can see from the cover, Deathsquad has Garth Ennis as a big fan, and when you read it, you’ll certainly understand why. This is a classic series, unflinchingly brutal, full of dark humour, excellent anti-hero characters, and all of it stunningly executed by Hebden and Bradbury.

Now, enough talk of how good a series this was… time for a preview of the book so that you can see for yourselves…

 

Deathsquad – written by Alan Hebden, art by Eric Bradbury and Carlos Ezquerra. Published by The Treasury of British Comics on 25 November 2020.

Originally published in Battle Action from July 1980 – June 1981 (Eric Bradbury art) and Battle Annual 1982 (Carlos Ezquerra art).

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