Enemy Ace: War Idyll

By George Pratt (DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-930289-78-1 (HB)                978-0930289782 (TPB)

During the 1960s Marvel gave industry leader National (now DC) Comics an artistic and sales drubbing, overhauling their 20-year position as industry leader – but only in the resurgent genre of super-heroes. In such areas as young kids’ comics, teen-comedies and romance, the House of Ideas still lagged behind, and in the venerable and gritty war-comics market they rated lower even than Charlton.

Admittedly they weren’t really trying, with only the highly inconsistent Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos and latterly Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders as publications of any longevity, but that didn’t stop National’s editors and creators from forging ahead: creating a phenomenal number of memorable series and characters to thrill and inform a generation very much concerned with all aspects of military life.

Enemy Ace first appeared as a back-up in issue #151 of flagship war comic Our Army at War (cover-dated February 1965): home of the already legendary Sergeant Rock.

Crafted by the dream-team of Robert Kanigher & Joe Kubert the series told bitter tales of valour and honour from the point of view of German WWI fighter pilot Hans Von Hammer: a pure and noble warrior fighting for his country in a conflict that was swiftly excising all trace of such outmoded concepts from the business of mass-killing.

The tales – loosely based on “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen – were a magnificent tribute to the discipline of soldiering whilst wholeheartedly condemning the utter madness of war, produced during the turbulent days of the Vietnam War. They are still moving and powerful beyond belief.

As is this seminal sequel, Enemy Ace: War Idyll. Delineated in moody, misty, strikingly sombre images by painter George Pratt, the story follows the quest of troubled veteran Edward Mannock, a recently returned Vietnam grunt turned photo-journalist. He is a man desperately seeking answers to imponderable questions and great truths to cure the damage his own combat experiences have caused.

1969, and Mannock’s search takes a pivotal turn when, on a routine assignment, he discovers elderly, infirm Von Hammer. The mythic “Hammer of Hell” is dying in a German nursing home but instantly sees that he and the distraught young man share a deep and common bond…

Inexplicably allowed to drop out of print in both hardback and softcover editions and still unavailable in digital formats, this is an astounding, deeply incisive exploration of war, its repercussions, both good and bad, and the effects that combat has on singular men. War Idyll is visceral, poetic, emotive, evocative and terrifyingly instructive: with as much impact as All Quiet on the Western Front or Charley’s War. Every child who wants to be a soldier should be made to read this book.

You don’t want me to talk about it, but you do need to experience it, and once you have you’ll want to share that experience with others…
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