The Night Witches by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun

Garth Ennis and I have three things in common. We’re both Irish. We’ve both written war stories (in my case for the Eisner-nominated To End All Wars published by Soaring Penguin Press, and we both appreciate the legacy of the classic war comic Battle.

Battle was the brainchild of writer and editor Pat Mills (Pat also created 2000 AD, no mean feat in itself, as well as three other titles, Diceman, Action and Toxic). Pat has a talent for finding the talent and using it. So, Battle would feature the likes of John Wagner (Judge Dredd), the late great Carlos Ezquerra (one of the all-time great artists), the late artist Eric Bradbury (Invasion 1984 and Death Squad), Mike Western (whose work was seen to great effect in the classic Battle story ‘The Sarge’), and the late John Cooper (who drew much of the classic Johnny Red story). Without a doubt Battle’s greatest achievement is Charley’s War, written by Pat Mills and illustrated by the late Joe Colquhoun (a true original and a gifted storyteller).

Battle is no longer, but its influence remains, and one of the highest compliments I can pay The Night Witches is that it would fit beautifully into a 2019 version of Battle.

Garth Ennis has taken his 30 years experience in comics and has done excellent research (I have a huge interest in military history, especially of Russia, and I would notice if he was chancing it. He isn’t.)

The Night Witches is set in World War 2, in Russia. It tells the tale of Russian pilot Anna Kharkova, one of the titular Night Witches (or Nacht Hexen as their German foes called them).

I won’t spoil the story for its readers, save to say it is beautifully written and illustrated – by the very talented Russ Braun. It truly is moving, horrifying and funny; and that makes it very real. The Night Witches really is a must for anyone who appreciates a story that draws strongly on historic and universal truths. Courage will never go out of fashion not even in our fake social media world.

I know it is unlikely that Garth will ever read this review, but I say to him well done – a great achievement indeed.

Steve Earles

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/writers/).