Graphic Novel Review: Charley’s War: Hitler’s Youth

(Titan Books, �14.99)

WHO can forget the war comics of our youth? When the plucky Brit heroes gave it to the Bosch with both barrels? The likes of Warlord, Commando and Victor were packed with strips which portrayed war in a very black and white fashion, with little room for any shades of grey or political commentary.

All of that changed with the arrival of WWI series Charley’s War in the pages of Battle Picture Weekly in 1979, which has subsequently gained the reputation as one of the finest British comic strips of all time thanks to the talented story-telling of writer Pat Mills and artist Joe Colquhoun.

Previous volumes (this is the eighth) explored the life of young recruit Charley Bourne after he joins the army in the early days of the war, only to find himself caught up in the Battle of the Somme, with a meticulous level of detail about his life in the trenches.

Mills and Colquhoun ensured a remarkable attention to historical accuracy, and never flinched away from showing the horrors of war while commenting on the politics behind the conflict, avoiding the gung-ho approach found in most other war comics of the time.

In this latest book, which begins in December 1917, Charley comes face-to-face with a young German corporal who will eventually change the face of the world. The man, Adolf Hitler, at this time just another combatant in the conflict, but later to become the ruthless leader of the Nazi Party, and responsible for a second World War…

Once again, we see a fusion of historical fact and realistic fiction to present a strip which totally redefined British comics at the time. Titan’s ongoing programme of reprints ensures these classic stories are preserved for posterity, and celebrates Mills and Colquhoun’s contribution not only to comics history, but also the portrayal of military history in any form of fiction.

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