Featured Review for an Upcoming Graphic Novel Release

Cover for The Stringbags. Depicts Archie, Ollie, and Pops inside a Fairey Swordfish during WW2.
Cover for The Stringbags. Graphic novel cover by PJ Holden, Kelly Fitzpatrick, & Robert Steen.

Where to buy/pre-order this graphic novel:

Credits:

  • Written by Garth Ennis
  • Drawn by PJ Holden
  • Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
  • Lettered by Rob Steen
  • Published by Dead Reckoning in Annapolis, Maryland

DISCLAIMER: Dead Reckoning were gracious enough to provide me with an advance review copy of The Stringbags. Despite receiving a free copy to review, I am under no obligation to provide a positive review. As always, my review will reflect how I truly feel about the content. Normally in my reviews I will include a brief summary. But I’m not including any spoilers this time. I feel this is only right given the graphic novel has yet to be released. So consider this entire review to be a spoiler-free zone.

The Stringbags is more than a story of heroism. It’s more than a history lesson. It’s an eye-opener to the horrors of war, and the limits of humanity when face-to-face with death. This is a fictional story that takes place during a very real war that took real lives.

Archie, Ollie and Pops are the three main characters in The Stringbags. The book consists of three separate stories that take place during three separate battles. The main characters are stand-ins for the real British Navymen who took part in each battle. In reality, no single person took part in all three battles. Archie, Ollie, and Pops allow the author, critically acclaimed Garth Ennis, to insert a flow between each story. The battles are connected in reality because of the use of the Faerey Swordfish biplanes, AKA The Stringbags.

If you’ve read anything by Garth Ennis before, you know to expect a level of seriousness combined with comedy. This, however, was my first experience with his promise of historical accuracy. Despite the fictional characters, The Stringbags could easily be assigned as extra credit in a World History class. Surprisingly there isn’t a whole lot of blood and gore in this graphic novel, although there is some.

Archie, Ollie and Pops aren’t just depicted as British Navymen. They are presented as real people with real fears and real aspirations. On one end of the spectrum, they want to enjoy the glory of battles won. However they also know how dangerous their job is, and they see it firsthand. Even when their enemies are in dire straits, they can’t deny that if the tables were turned, they’d wish for a way out.

I really enjoyed the artwork in The Stringbags. Most of this graphic novel is in full-color, while the last of the three stories is black and white. At first, I wondered why they did this. It isn’t until the very last page that I realized why (sorry no spoilers!). At almost 200 pages, this may feel like a lengthy read, but I was able to finish it in one sitting. Not once did I feel bored with what I was reading. It was a delight to read all the way through. If you’re a fan of Garth Ennis or if you’re simply a war history buff, I highly recommend you pick up this graphic novel! You can pre-order now or wait until the release date in May 2020 to purchase it.

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that the third story in the final product will in fact be full-color. This makes my ‘last page’ theory mentioned in the final paragraph of this review null and void. However I still hold that leaving at least that page as black and white could have been a very powerful storytelling device. This time it was just coincidence.

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