Battlefields: Dear Billy #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
by Garth Ennis & Peter Snejbjerg
Garth Ennis is no stranger to war comics. He’s written dozens of them, and he’s done so with no small measure of creative success. I’ve read a good number of them and applauded those past efforts. I can say without hesitation that Dear Billy is his strongest and most compelling foray into the war genre to date, or at least the first issue is. Ennis explores the notion of war from a woman’s perspective during a time when women weren’t expected to understand fully the horrors it brings. As Ennis’s heroine proves, though, there was plenty of horror for both genders in the Second World War. The strong feminist narration is incredibly compelling. The writer explores the unfortunate social realities of a different time but tempers it with a touching (and I’m guessing ultimately tragic) love story. Dear Billy is quietly heart-breaking, and it stands out as the first must-read comic book I’ve come across in 2009.
If Ennis’s script and plot weren’t enough reason to pick up this three-issue series, the art cinches it. Peter Snejbjerg brings a softer look to the harsh ideas and sadness that make for such a fascinating read. That softer look isn’t meant to suggest any kind of weakness in the female protagonist, but rather reinforces the emotional and personal side of the story. It’s unfortunate that neither cover image captures the heart of this remarkable story. Cassaday’s smoochy cover misses the mark, just as the savage stabbing depicts a fleeting moment that doesn’t directly involve the main protagonist. Nevertheless, the misleading covers shouldn’t dissuade anyone from checking out one of the finest things Ennis has ever written and the very best comic book Dynamite has published to date. 10/10