There’s a distinctly watery feel to this latest batch of Commando stories (Issues 4899-4902 – On Sale 24th March 2016 in the UK). Until you get to the last one where the Phil Gascoine’s dusty khaki-coloured cover leaves you in no doubt that this is a waterless waste.
But that’s not what struck me most. Not for the first time, this selection illustrates (ho ho) the freedom that the war comic allows the writer when it comes to locations. This bunch have two in the Far East, one in Northern India and a fourth in Greece. Okay so a writer could put their characters in any one of these locations but, given the global nature of war from the 19th Century on, that writer doesn’t have to make up any reason for their characters to be there beyond the Services sending them. And that allows characters the reader can readily identify with, both culturally and physically. And that allows them to identify with the experience of the players is the story.
That identification is of a totally different kind to that experienced when reading of the adventures of another spandex-covered super and lay at the core of most British war comics. The difference between the superhero and the everyman hero.
No prizes for guessing my preference.
Massacre In Malaya — Commando No 4899
In the arid jungles of Malaya in 1941, British and Commonwealth forces held out against the relentless advance of the Japanese.
Private Josh Combe and his unit were determined to protect the life of a civilian boy who had been left silent, traumatised and alone by the murderous actions of a pair of enemy officers.
In a last-ditch attempt to get to friendly territory they would have to take to the river to survive.
Story: George Low Art: Olivera/Rodriguez Cover: Janek Matysiak
Preview: Massacre In Malaya
Sailor With Wings — Commando No 4900
Lieutenant-Commander Jim Treggaron, pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, had the blood of the old Cornish pirates in his veins — or so his men said. Otherwise, he’d never have tried to organise his Swordfish squadron to operate from a little beach in Greece. They were supposed to fly from their aircraft carrier.
However, Jim found a bunch of tough Resistance helpers, a cave full of old RAF fuel and ammo, and a beach long enough for take-off.
The Italian navy was in handy range so zooming into action went the
SAILOR WITH WINGS
Peter Ford is undoubtedly one of Commando’s unsung heroes from the earliest days of the title — and is a rare example of an excellent artist who was also a great scriptwriter. In terms of art, one of his specialties was aircraft illustration. Even from the first, dynamic page opposite it is apparent that we’re in for an action-packed, aeronautical treat.
Buccheri’s cover is superb too — although one does wonder if Peter Ford had hankered to supply the cover too and make this book a creative Commando hat-trick!
Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor
Sailor With Wings, originally Commando No 239 (December 1966)
Story: Peter Ford Art: Peter Ford Cover: Buccheri
Preview: Sailor With Wings
Full Steam Ahead — Commando No 4901
So, just how did two downed Royal Australian Air Force pilots end up on a secluded Pacific island — as prisoners of a long-forgotten Imperial German Navy unit whose unhinged leader was determined to complete a decades-old mission?
Sergeant Matt Herford and Corporal Ben MacAuley would have to commandeer an ancient, steam-powered torpedo boat in an attempt to escape and warn their superiors of an imminent threat.
It’s a tall tale indeed, fantastic in every sense of the word.
Story: Stephen Walsh Art: Keith Page Cover: Keith Page
Preview: Full Steam Ahead
Branded A Coward — Commando No 4902
The heroic last stand of Lieutenant Hugh Overton in the mountains of the Indian North-West Frontier won even the respect of the enemy tribesmen who had wiped out his patrol to a man.
Yet by his own people Hugh was branded a coward, a deserter who had fled in terror in the face of the enemy, condemning his men to death!
At first glance you might think that this book has several overly familiar traits that you might expect to find in a Commando story.
An officer wrongly accused of cowardice. Check.
An object – in this instance a silver cigar case – which serves as an important plot-point, or “macguffin“, according to film director Alfred Hitchcock. Check.
A relative of the accused who is determined to find out the truth. Check.
However, thanks to the conviction of all the creators involved, it all still works — no matter how superficially familiar the tropes of the tale itself may seem.
Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor
Branded A Coward, originally Commando No 2440 (January 1991)
Story: C.G. Walker Art: Keith Shone Cover: Phil Gascoine
Preview: Branded A Coward