Rebellion’s Battle reprints are coming thick and fast, with Death Squad next in line. This collection of strips from the comic tell the story of a German punishment battalion, sent to fight the Russians on the Eastern Front.
Punishment battalions were formed by the German army to deal with the soldiers who couldn’t or wouldn’t fit in with regular troops. The horrors they faced trained them on the job, with only the best surviving, turning them into one of the most-feared fighting forces of the war.
Indeed, Death Squad was a direct replacement for the strip Rat Pack, and there are a lot of similarities with the characters. But while this unit is German not British, sent to fight on the Russian Front, the comedic moments are still present and feel more than a little at odds with the grim scenarios. Saying that, a couple of the storylines are a bit lighter, including one about the filming of propaganda films, and another where the Death Squad somehow trick the Russians into completely redesigning their train locomotives – so they can’t run on the existing tracks!
The main strip was lavishly illustrated by Eric Bradbury with his distinctive characters and trademark heavy black shadows. Unfortunately some of the reproduction isn’t quite up to the usual high standards, resulting in the occasional panel looking a bit too murky (the reprints of Bradbury’s Dracula File looked much cleaner). Some pages are heavy on dialogue, too, with word balloons unfortunately covering up elements of the action. The collection is rounded out with a Battle Annual 1982 strip with art by Carlos Ezquerra, which sadly feels a lot looser and more rushed than both the main strip and Ezquerra’s usual work.
While Death Squad has been described by Garth Ennis as “Battle at its best,” and some of the chapters here definitely fit that bill, this collection doesn’t quite do the strip the justice it deserves.