Comics: Charley’s War: The Definitive Collection, Volume 2 - Reviewed

Charley’s War Volume 2 continues with Charley’s experience as a soldier during World War I. In this volume, Charley meets a man named Blue who is a deserter from the French Foreign Legion and came to Charley for help escaping. He discovered his brother-in-law, Oiley, will help deserters escape and was using Charley’s house to do it. Blue tells Charley of his encounter at the Battle of Verdun in hopes that Charley will agree to helping him once he hears his story. Suddenly the comic turns away from Charley for the moment and focuses on Blue telling the story of Verdun from his perspective as a French soldier. It was the French who did the majority of the fighting, and they had to deal with cramped quarters inside the fort which caused claustrophobia for many of the men. There was also not much water for the soldiers, resulting in many of them trading sentimental personal items with the Germans in exchange for something to drink.

There are a lot of hard truths in this volume as it depicts real things that would happen during the war. There is a horrible scene showing Africans shockingly being used as an experiment. They were given no training, and most of them had not even seen a machine-gun before. But they were allowed to fight in order to see what they could do. Basically they were being murdered for research purposes. During the war there were many widows and mothers who turned to mediums to speak to their children who had died in the war. This led to many con-artists taking advantage of them. One such person was Oiley. For the soldiers, sometimes the fighting was so bad that they would kill themselves so they wouldn’t die going over the top. Part of the reason why there were so many deaths was that when the men did go over the top they were weighed down by their gear, which slowed them down. Something else that must’ve been horrible was the fact that the soldiers would have to take part in the authorized murder of those prisoners who were condemned to death. Charley was one of those soldiers, and it’s interesting to see the main character in a comic do something like this. But I’m thankful Pat Mills showed the reality of the war and what would’ve actually happened. Charley is greatly troubled by this act as the man he was forced to shoot was only seventeen and his brother’s age.

Blue is one of my favorite characters introduced in this volume. He is based on Jack Nicholson’s character from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. According to Pat Mills, Blue was supposed to have his own spinoff series, but much to his disappointment, that didn’t happen. One of my favorite scenes with Blue was when him and his fellow soldiers were baa-ing like sheep as they moved to the front, although that stunt put them in the second assault wave. His fellow soldiers weren’t very kind to him as they accused him of stealing one of their comrades water. While they eventually caught the real culprit, Blue had gotten hurt in the process. I love his attitude though. He is a true fighter and knows what it takes to survive in the world.

Joe Colquhoun is one of the most talented artists I’ve seen. His action sequences are superb and his attention to detail is utter perfection. His illustrations make you feel as if you are fighting alongside these men. The facial expressions are flawless and I love the way he uses the characters’ body language to reflect emotions and feelings as well. While the majority of the volume is in black and white, those images that are in color are beautifully done. The colors are vivid and bright and draw you into the story. One of my favorite pictures was the scene of a German pouring water onto the ground and telling the French that they could drink all the water they want as long as they surrender. The evil grin on his face as he’s purposely pouring out the water is chilling. This series is the best anti-war comic that I have ever read. If you enjoy history and war, you will love this comic. Charley’s War Volume 2 is available May 17, 2018.

-Amy Walker-LaFollette