At the bookstore a few weeks ago I saw something on the graphic novel rack that made me stop and do a double take.
Showcase Presents: Enemy Ace.
I pulled it off the shelf. Glanced at the cover — a red Fokker triplane. Flipped through it. Five hundred pages of World War I aerial dogfighting goodness.
For reasons I’ve never understood, World War I has long fascinated me.
The trenches. The early tanks. The canvas airplanes. The senseless futility of it all, matched with the bizarre romanticism with which the war was fought.
I have, on my desk, a LEGO Sopwith Camel. I have a Snoopy in his World War I fighter garb.
In the 1960s and 1970s DC Comics did occasional back-up features in their comics featuring the Enemy Ace, a German fighter pilot during the war. Hans von Hammer.
I didn’t buy the book immediately. I was, admittedly, curious about it.
I picked it up just recently, and I’ve read through a few of the stories.
DC’s Showcase Presents line are massive, phonebook-sized trade paperbacks reprinting dozens of stories, in black and white. Enemy Ace, for example, runs 552 pages.
The Enemy Ace is, to use Chris Clarement’s description of Wolverine, “the best there is at what he does.” (And if someone could explain to me just what it is that Wolverine does, I’d appreciate it.) It really does apply to the Enemy Ace. He’s a brutal killing machine in the skies over France. He has an instinctual feel for the air.
And he hates it.
It’s what he does, it gives him acclaim, but it gives him no pleasure.
The stories seem a bit simplistic — duels in the sky, basically.
The artwork is well-done, much of it by Joe Kubert. And the writing draws von Hammer’s character sharply.
World War I is often overlooked in American literature. I won’t say that Enemy Ace redresses the balance. I can’t even saw how historically accurate the stories are — though the planes do look right. Enemy Ace takes comics readers back to a time that American history has forgotten, placing a German perspective on the war, and the black-and-white artwork is entirely appropriate.
Showcase Presents Enemy Ace is an intriguing package, for the historically inclined. If World War I interests you, it’s worth your time.