Page 45 Review by Stephen
"It's a bit preposterous us thinking we can illustrate this stuff that we know nothing of - sitting here in our air-conditioned rooms trying to imagine the horrors of being knee deep in mud with your feet rotting off."
Nevertheless, Eddie does a convincing impression of knowing precisely what it felt, looked and smelled like, at night, and throws it in front of your face. Towards the end there is a close-up of what's left of a clod-encrusted cadaver, its skull-thin face with opaque eye-jelly being crawled round by maggots.
"A barb had pierced his eye and stuck there, rusting in the socket from which sight was gone."
It opens with the occasional crack of sniper bullets whipping the sandbags as soldiers stumble about like phantoms in the miasmatic fog, barbed wire lit up in ghostly electric arcs or, later, glistening with spiders' webs and dew drops as it resists being dragged down and sucked into the mud by the weight of what's left of a once-living human being. What's left of Loos church and graveyard is also lit up in a ghastly, bone-strewn son et lumière. The overall effect is like staring into old-school black and white photographic negatives: indistinct, often terrifying.
Campbell chose to condense the closing chapter of a novel by Patrick MacGill, The Great Push (1916), but the rest of this black and white book is given over to the World War I Trench Poets - writers on the frontline responsible for breaking through the propaganda with their terrible truths - interpreted by an impressive array of comicbook creators:
Hannah Berry, Stephen R. Bissette, Lilli Carré, Lisbeth De Stercke, Hunt Emerson, Garth Ennis, Simon Gane, Sarah Glidden, Isabel Greenberg, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Peter Kuper, James Lloyd, Pat Mills, Anders Nilsen, Danica Novgorodoff, George Pratt, Carol Tyler, Phil Winslade.
George Pratt takes on Wilfred Owen's Dulce Et Decorum Est and Greater Love. He notes in the back that, wishing to avoid overshadowing the words, he deliberately used thick tools like paint rollers and knives which wouldn't allow him to overwork the images with details. It works.
My other favourite is Simon Gane's second piece here, Osbert Sitwell's The Next War, using war memorials from Britain and France, trailed with ivy, their age and textures perfectly rendered, each improbably well chosen to match and so evoke what was written. I urge you to hit the internet and gawp at the man's architecture and landscape sketchwork.
Here you go, a rare external link: http://simongane.blogspot.co.uk/
There is an excellent introduction by Editor Chris Duffy, and commentary by the creators bringing up the rear. Kevin Huizenga's is particularly worth noting.
Further recommended reading: Dave McKean's BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH and THE GREAT WAR by Joe Sacco, both reviewed.