Comics Review: "Major Eazy: Heart of Iron"
- by Señor Editor, 25 July 2012
First off, let me just say that while Major Eazy is something of a cult classic in the UK, this was my first exposure to the character. But this collected edition makes it really easy to get right into the thick of things. The stories in this are short - they're all 3 pages long, in black & white, all usually follow a simple formula and can be read one at a time, because each one is a complete adventure.
We meet Eazy right when he's assigned as the new leader of a British Army unit in Italy. He's cool, calm and collected, can take a nap during a full-out battle, if he wishes, and can end a conflict with a few swift shots or well crafted plan. And, as the name implies, he makes it look easy.
He wears a bomber jacket, a cap, and a cigar always dangles from his mouth. He doesn't have much (or any) respect for his senior officers, but he will help out the good guys and punish the bad guys when it comes to it. Eazy's attitude is straight out of a Clint Eastwood flick, although Ezquerra draws him to look almost exactly like James Coburn.
Ezquerra's art makes this comic a joy to look at. He's fantastic in conveying the personality of each character and is just as good when he has to draw breath-taking action scenes. As far as the writing goes, well it definitely does a good job of showing us how tough and brutal the war is, and that not everything is what it seems at first. It also does a fine job of showing Eazy as a character one can like, too, but I had some problems with Hebden's writing. And most of it comes from how the other Allied soldiers are portrayed.
To put it bluntly, they aren't shown in a very positive way most of the time. Sure, the English officers are often also shown as jackasses, but at least the good Major is a Brit to root for! But you have a better chance finding a reasonable and honorable Nazi soldier than any likable soldier from the Allies' side. If Hebden admitted, in the interview at the beginning of the volume, that he took a lot of liberties with his take on history, then I'd just leave this alone, but he says he's a history buff and therefor didn't need to do any research. The places and time might be right, but a whole lot of things are plain wrong. One thing that I found pretty damn offensive was Polish soldiers on the Italian front calling each other "comrade".
My grandmother escaped from a moving train headed to a concentration camp, and was a Warsaw Uprising veteran, so other than just being culturally offensive, this pisses me off quite a bit. And every Polish person that I ran that part by had the same reaction. The Germans built their concentration camps on Polish territory and there's plenty of uneducated people calling them "Polish concentration camps" even now (not that he's uneducated, but if you wanna see how widespread that ignorance is and how the issue still exists and is a very sensitive one, then look no further than President Obama's recent gaffe from May this year - although in that case it was obviously just poor wording on the speech author's side), and the whole topic is very touchy in Poland (and rightfully so), so seeing things like this that only add to the bad image doesn't make me like the author at all.
The Americans have no reason to be pleased either since they are just power-hungry, "stupid Yanks" or "cowboys" most of the time here. The Brazilians are cowards until Major Eazy shows them how to fight etc. So I guess you have to just cringe a couple of times and shake your head in disappointment and not take this comicbook or the author's historical knowledge very seriously (Titan Books did put an addendum at the beginning of this volume distancing themselves from some views presented in the comic, though).
This isn't a history book, though. And let's hope nobody treats it like one. This is a comicbook, and one that has a quite a fanbase. The issues of "Battle Picture Weekly" that were used to create this collection are very often really, really rare and often in poor condition. So let's talk about the great job Titan Books did with restoring the comics.
While I haven't seen the original copies of the stories used here, I did a google search for them and what I found makes me really respect Titan Books' work into making the comics look good again. Every page of this looks sharp, the word balloons are easy to read, the action scenes are eye-catching and I'd even say it's possible "Major Eazy" never looked that good before. It's obvious a lot of work went into getting all the stories in one place and making them look good for any reader, be it old and new. The additional interview with Alan Hebden is also a nice bonus that will make a lot of the fans happy.
So while I had some gripes with this book, I can't say that it wasn't interesting checking out what the famous series was all about. While it may not be a piece of the actual WW2 history, it's a piece of comicbook history, refreshed for a new generation, and that's something commendable!
"Major Eazy: Heart of Iron" can be bought at the Titan Books website!