Review: World of Tanks: Roll Out #1
Garth Ennis (writer), Carlos Ezquerra (illustrator), Michael Atiyeh (colorist), no letterer listed
August 31, 2016
Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance review copy from Dark Horse Comics.
A comic book based on an MMO called World of Tanks was never going to be high art, not even in the hands of war comics veterans Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra. Ennis is the war stories writer for contemporary Anglophone mainstream publications, and Ezquerra’s war comics cred stretches back to the pre-2000AD days of Battle et al. Together, their previous collaborations include Battlefield: Tankies for Dynamite, about a bunch of soldiers in tanks during WWI, and Adventures in the Rifle Brigade for Vertigo, a parody of British WWII movies and comics centering on the fictional mission “Operation Bollock.” One gets the impression that Ennis and Ezquerra were waiting all their lives for a game like World of Tanks to come along. If the sequel is called “World of Embittered Stubbly Men In Planes,” we will have reached the Ennis-Ezquerra Apex.
The narrative is your basic British WWII story with a twist. The Brits (good) versus the Nazis (bad, but still human) are interrupted in their battle when their tanks seem to develop minds of their own. Problem is, the latter element, which is more interesting than yet another hopeful newbie meeting a cynical yet caring officer, only gets a few panels on a few pages at the end of the comic. The rest is taken up by manful dialogues about being a good soldier/having seen too many men die, but still never backing down from the fight, dammit/etc./etc. We’ve seen all that in war comics and movies before. What we haven’t seen in war stories is tanks that drive themselves and fire their own weapons. Yet, for some reason, Ennis isn’t interested in focusing on what’s probably the USP of the comic, and Ezquerra’s art doesn’t clearly depict what’s happening. I only knew what was going on from the dialogue.
Other than that, Ezquerra’s art in this comic is serviceable, but that’s about it. While his stylish ugliness (and I mean that as a compliment) wonderfully illuminates the urbanized fascist degeneracy of Mega-City One or the space Wild West of Strontium Dog, and is well suited to the wounded hard men of Ennis’ own world of tanks, he’s definitely phoning it in here. Not that I blame him, exactly; one can’t always spin straw into gold. Sometimes it’s just better as straw. But I’d at least like to see what’s happening in that pile of straw, which I couldn’t always do in World of Tanks: Roll Out. The equally serviceable coloring by Michael Atiyeh doesn’t help either, what with almost everything being the same dark colors. It’s difficult to spot a single dark green moving object in a sea of dark green objects. I know war comics struggle with this, but a good colorist can help draw the reader’s eye to the important stuff even among a whole battalion of tanks.
As a result, I’ve come to a conclusion about World of Tanks: Roll Out that I never thought I’d come to about a Garth Ennis comic: I’m probably not going to pick up the next issue. Not because it’s terrible–terrible can be entertaining in its own way–but because it’s not very interesting. And the last thing you want for a comic about tanks blowing things up is for it to be uninteresting.