Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
With the first season of Preacher in the books, many fans may have gone back to (or finally got around to reading) the source material to see just how well Garth Ennis can shape distinct characters and a decadently warped sense of humor into a compelling narrative about spirituality and Americana better than the producers of the show certainly can. They may also think, however, that putting the coals to religion is Ennis’s only dimension. Some older fans, however, already know of his passion for stories centered around World War II as well as his frequent partnership with Carlos Ezquerra (indeed, on some of those Preacher stories, even). It may be a little odd to see someone with a reputation like Ennis take on a licensed comic for an MMO game like World of Tanks, but it gives him a chance to shine in familiar territories – both with the setting of the story and his choice of partner.
What has to be discussed first is how Ennis handles the characters in the story, which outshines the plot itself about a German Panzer division in dire straits as they are pursued by a British Cromwell crew. This would normally come off as a typical, trite case of the down-and-out Allied squad besieged by the evil, epithet-spouting Nazis until the Allied pull victory out of the jaws of nowhere, thereby telling the tale that would offend no one and please everyone. Ennis manages to offend no one (surprisingly), but flips expectations and renders the German tank squad as the ones on the defensive. No stereotypes or cliches to be found, just Ennis painting a historically accurate portrait of war as hell. Ennis chooses not to pander to expectations nor does he provoke just to be “controversial.” Members of both opposing sides have their faults and foibles. There are no caricatures in this tale, just soldiers who want to make it home. In this light, these characters are much more relatable no matter what side they may be on. It is a balance that it feels like Ennis deliberately strove for in relating the theme that war is hell no matter what your ideology may be.
Ezquerra also plays up this idea in documenting this tale as well. Both men forego stereotypes – Ennis in his character development, Ezquerra in his linework. It’s not as frenetic as it has been in past collaborations with Ennis (such as those Preacher side-stories or working on Judge Dredd). Ezquerra reins in the crazy and hits with the realism just like Ennis. The result is still gritty but also understated, giving this type of story the respect it deserves.
Ennia and Ezquerra take what could have been an easy paycheck and turn it into an examination of how war affects all those on the front lines. Licensed books have grown to become excellent stories in their own rights in the hands of those that respect the source material. In this case, the source material isn’t just a video game, but World War II – something Ennis and Ezquerra already have tremendous respect for. That respect shines through in World of Tanks: Roll Out #1, an effort that scores 4 out of 5 Panzer Ambushes and well worth picking up, especially if you’re thinking this is going to be just another lame commercial tie-in. Or another stereotypical war book.