30 in 30 - Day 7: Battlefields—Dear Billy / by Frank Gogol

Considering that the Governor’s election is taking place here in New Jersey today, I almost feel as if I should have held off on reading V for Vendetta. What’s done is done, though. So, in keeping with all things British (instead), today I read the very surprising Battlefields—Dear Billy by Garth Ennis and Peter Snejbjerg.

I’m not a big war story guy or even necessarily the biggest Garth Ennis fan, but this quick miniseries came at the suggestion of Paul Allor. And when Paul recommends a book, that miniseries jumps to the top of my read pile.

Synopsis

Title: Battlefields—Dear Billy
Storytellers: Garth Ennis & Peter Snejbjerg
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Year of Publication: 2009
Page Count: 88

1942: In the tropical splendor of the South China sea, as the Second World War spreads across the far east, a young woman finds herself in paradise ... and then in hell. Nurse Carrie Sutton is caught up in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, suffering horrors beyond her wildest nightmares — and survives! Now, she attempts to start her life anew, buoyed up by a growing friendship with a wounded pilot, only for fate to deliver up the last thing she ever expected. Carrie, at last, has a chance for revenge ... but should she take it? In the midst of a world torn apart by war, you can fight and you can win, but you still might not get the things you truly want. More incredible stories from Garth Ennis (The Boys, Preacher) as his Battlefields series continues exclusively from Dynamite Entertainment! For this second mini-series — Dear Billy — Garth is joined by artist Peter Snejbjerg and cover artist John Cassaday for a haunting tale of wartime in 1942!

SPOILERS FOR BATTLEFIELDS—DEAR BILLY BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

Up until this book, off the top of my head at least, my only experience reading Ennis has been his Punisher MAX stuff, which I’ve enjoyed. What always struck me about his Punishers stories is how he added some depth Frank Castle by putting kids in danger. In his own way, Ennis likes to write about horrific experiences and create stories with emotional stakes. Given the ultraviolence nature of his writing, this sometimes gets overshadowed, though.

What stood out about Dear Billy is how at the forefront those emotional stakes were. From the first scene through the end of the series, there’s a tragic, and ultimately deadly, weight upon the protagonist, Carrie. And it feels real, given the wartime setting of the story. If I learned one thing from reading this story, it was a reaffirmation that character is always first and foremost when building a story, and Ennis has a knack for doing just that.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Snejbjerg’s art is a masterclass in what can be achieved through simplicity. While the golden standard in the comics industry seems to be artists with realistic lines and lots of detail, Snejbjerg’s art is gorgeous in how simple it is. Big moments and quiet moments alike feel as if they’re given great weight because the focus is squarely on the character, rather than how realistically rendered the character or setting is.

Recommendation: A (Must Read)

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