Gatecrasher: Ring of Fire
by Mark Waid, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Evil other-dimensional aliens are opening trans-dimensional gates and invading Earth, and only the Gatecrashers, an elite secret miltary force, can stop them. The Gatecrashers' secret weapon is Alec Wagner, high school senior and human/alien hybrid. Unfortunately for Earth, Alec would rather go to the prom with his hot girlfriend than save the planet from aliens, much to the dismay of Hazard, the unit's commander. Waid shows an early talent for writing non-super-hero action (though admitedly it's not far from that particular apple tree) and Conner & Palmiotti are in their element with sci-fi action and alien monsters. This is not deep stuff by any means, but it is pulpy good fun.
Rating: 3 (of 5)
Enemy Ace: War in Heaven
by Garth Ennis, Christian Alamy, Chris Weston, Russ Heath; Robert Kanigher & Joe Kubert
It's 1942, and Hans Von Hammer, Germany's Ace pilot during the first World War, has been reluctantly convinced to come back and lead a fighter squadron over the Russian theater. Von Hammer does this only out of concern for the young German fighter pilots, not for any love of the Nazi regime, which gets him into trouble with those more loyal to the National Socialist ideas. But his kill rate and the survival of his squadron cannot be ignored, so Von Hammer is allowed to stay around, until he learns too much about the horrors of modern war. It's nearly impossible to read this and not see parallels with certain present-day armed conflicts, but I suppose that has more to do with the general themes of all war stories. Ennis seems to be strongest when he is writing war comics, and his Enemy Ace is no exception; I suspect that, given his druthers, Ennis would prefer to stay with war stories, as even his horror & super-hero work usually have strong military characters and themes. The art in the first chapter, by Chris Weston over layouts by Christian Alamy, is astounding; I don't think I've ever seen aerial battles depicted in a comic with such fluidity, grace and power. The art in the second chapter is by the legendary Russ Heath, and while it is quite good, it suffers a bit in comparison to the first chapter. Heath appears to be attempting a Joe Kubert look rather than staying with his own style. The colors in both chapters are by Matt Hollingsworth, and they also seem much more vibrant and alive in the first chapter than in the second. It would have been better to keep a consistant look throughout (the story was originally published as two separate 'prestige format' issues). Rounding out this collection is a classic "Enemy Ace" story by Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert; it's nothing much special, but I'm never going to turn down a chance to look at some Kubert artwork.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)