War is hell


Regardless of the heroic tales one hears from those that fought in World War II, the horrors of war are probably greater than anything you’ve seen on the screen, or read in a book.  Garth Ennis continues his Battlefields series with Dynamite Entertainment’s Battlefields: Dear Billy, that follows a nurse fighting her own battle against the enemy.

dearbilly2cover.jpgCarrie Sutton went from paradise to hell, after the invasion of Singapore by the Japanese during World War II.  Sutton ended up being raped and tortured (and eventually machine gunned).  When she was finally rescued, she tried to get back to normal life, working as a nurse at a military hospital.  Unfortunately, injured Japanese prisoners were brought to the hospital, which caused old feelings of anger to resurface to the point she begins killing those patients as a way of getting revenge for her treatment.

This issue picks up immediately following the first killing, and it is clear Sutton is having a difficult time with what she has done, but for reasons she tries to justify in this issue, can’t stop doing the killing.  She fully explains her actions in the narrative, and there is a point where the reader sympathizes with her actions.  However, the way she goes about  seeking her own retribution it is so methodical, one can see a psychotic person forming before your eyes, as she calmly goes through the motions suffocating or poisoning the POWs.

It seems Garth Ennis is trying to tell readers that even though war is hell, many of those involved kept the real battle inside their heads.  While readers don’t get to see the thoughts of other characters, one half believes the same turmoil is going on in the mind of Sutton’s boyfriend Billy.  While he is a grand war hero, he always changes the subject when talk of his battles comes up, or remains pensive when his heroics are discussed.

While this issue is told from the viewpoint of the female protagonist, readers do get the chance to see how brutal the front lines are, when Sutton makes a surprise appearance at Billy’s camp.  If you are squeamish about seeing blood and guts, and people getting blowed up real good in graphic detail, you’ll probably not want to read those pages, as the horrors of war as splattered in the reader’s face.

Even though each is being tormented by their inner demons, the times Billy and Carrie are together are filled with romance and good times, and it’s clear both are in love with one another.  This can only mean one thing – something bad is about to happen in the third and final issue of this mini-series.

I like how this story is unfolding.  We are reading Sutton’s letter to Billy (hence the title of the series), so everything is told via flashback.  It works really well, and draws the reader deeper into the story as these are the “personal” thoughts of the character.  The pacing and reveals are very dramatic, and well placed throughout the issue.  Since this is a period piece, Ennis made the wise move to make sure all the characters speak in the language of the times.  This means political correctness is thrown out the window, and racial slurs are scattered throughout the dialogue.  It will be off putting to the sensitive, but as a brutal war story, everything would collapse if that content were removed.

The art by Peter Snejbjerg is top notch.  I like the realistic styling, which gives more impact to the moments of violence, as no detail is spared.  You do see brains, eyeballs, and mangled bodies all over the place.

If you like the war genre, then you’ll more than likely enjoy Dear Billy.  However, if you like the glorified visions of the war, then you might be disappointed, as Garth Ennis doesn’t venture down that path.  Battlefields: Dear Billy #2 is a solid read and is worthy of 4 out of 5 Stars.


The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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