|JACKBOOT & IRONHEEL No. 1, June 2016|
The third in a series of “creator-driven comics” launched by “IDW Publishing” as part of their “five-week Creator Visions event” in August 2016, Issue One of “Jackboot & Ironheel” must undoubtedly have bewildered any perusing bibliophile who just happened to pick the magazine up with its harrowing tale of a West Ham football player winding up “in the midst of World War Two” just as a Nazi zombie goes on a grisly killing rampage within the confines of the P.O.W. camp Lungotz Luftzig. In fact, even those readers inwardly prepared for such gratuitous violence, on account of being familiar with writer Max Millgate’s “2000 A.D.” co-creation “Sinister Dexter”, probably found the hairs on the back of their necks stirring as a decaying German guard menacingly approaches his former colleagues’ sentry post and quite literally claws one of their heads in half; “Get away from me! You’re not Muggenthaler! He’s… dead. Ernst? Mein Gott! Noooo!”
The regular Judge Dredd contributor’s narrative certainly proves a disturbingly sinister experience, and impressively gets straight down to the business at hand, courtesy of Eddie “Ironheel” Neal swiftly recounting how he seemingly scored for the Hammers at Upton Park one day and then survived his Lancester Bomber HB-33’s crash-landing in occupied Europe the next. As a result one is barely into the twenty-two page periodical before the no-nonsense English tail-gunner is being brutalised by goose-stepping patrolmen, facing summary execution at the hands of Herr Kommandant Von-Kleist and encountering the cognisant cadaver of a drunken soldier long thought dead…
Somewhat regrettably however, Millgate’s interior breakdowns are rather woefully detrimental to both his storytelling and the comic’s spine-tingling ambience, inexplicably fluctuating between a style somewhat reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s "Hellboy" and exasperatingly that of an adolescent amateur. Indeed in many ways it is hard to believe that the artist responsible for this title’s exquisitely detailed cover illustration featuring Ironheel stoically staring into the face of an undead Nazi zombie is actually the same person drawing the inertly wooden, two-dimensional figures inside the book.
Admittedly, the “captured English bombardier” looks reasonably lifelike and animated during the tale’s opening panels, especially those depicting the Messerschmitt night-fighter downing the large R.A.F. plane over a frozen lake. But just as soon as the titular character takes a “rifle butt to the back of the head” the penciller’s discipline appears to significantly diminish to the point where some of the later scenes genuinely seem to have been sketched for a neighbourhood fanzine, rather than as part of professionally published four-issue mini-series.
|The variant 'subscription' cover art of "JACKBOOT & IRONHEEL" No. 1 by Max Millgate|