World of Tanks: Citadel – Garth Ennis, P.J. Holden & Michael Atiyeh (Dark Horse)
There was a time when stories of war and the soldiers who fought and died in them were an all-conquering leviathan that dominated the British comic industry and ruled it with an iron fist. It was a time when the likes of Commando, Battle, Warlord and Action consistently outsold their super-powered science fiction counterparts, when fandom would rather read tales of courage forged on the field of conflict than be whisked into space alongside costumed crusaders defending the Earth from alien invasion. Slowly but surely though, tastes changed and the war stories that had fired the imaginations of generations of comic fans faded into obscurity while the popularity of superheroes surged. Barring a series of reprints and re-issues of stories from that era, comics that celebrated the bravery of, and told stories about, the reluctant warriors ensnared in theatres of conflict became a niche genre. But all genres have their champions, their leaders and acclaimed proponents and Garth Ennis has become the foremost writer of four colour war stories, and Citadel is the latest chapter in his ongoing World of Tanks series, which is loosely based on the widely popular online game.
Set on the Eastern Front in 1943, Citadel is the story of Operation Zitadelle (also known as the Battle of Kursk), a German counter offensive that was supposed to stem the retreat from Russia and turn the tide of the war in their favour. One of the largest armoured conflicts in history, Zitadelle didn’t achieve its lofty ambitions and instead saw hundreds of thousands of infantrymen and tank and air crews perish in a needlessly costly campaign. Citadel goes to the heart of the battle and tells its story by focussing on two tank crews, one German and one Russian, who fought in, and around, Kursk, the town and it’s surrounding area that lay at the centre of Operation Zitadelle. Incredibly personal, brutal and violent, Citadel is a gritty, blood soaked story that doesn’t pull any punches or spare any sensibilities and most importantly, doesn’t attempt to glorify war. It focuses on the realities of the horror, fear and suffering experienced by said crews, all of which are hammered home by the detailed, confident art of Holden that draws its inspiration from Carlos Ezquerra’s work on Battle, and while it’s bursting with action, Citadel doesn’t ignore the fact that it’s “heroes” were men and women, who were prone to the same weaknesses and fallibility that every member of the species is. A very human, and at times all too real, story, Citadel is a powerful engaging and completely absorbing tale of the reluctant partnership of man and machine during one of the bleakest, and most terrible periods in history. Let battle commence…Tim Cundle