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Friday, 11 November 2011

In Review: Commando 4443 - Killer In No-Man's-Land

The batch of Commandos that are in the shops now, as well as including the reprint of the original Issue 2 from 50 years ago, also has two brand new stories set during the First World War. On the eleventh day of the eleventh month it therefore seems appropriate to review one of those Great War Commando stories, issue 4443 Killer In No-Man's-Land.

It is 1916 and Private Alan Roux is a runner for a British Infantry regiment on the front line in France. Carrying messages from his unit to other units on the front line and to headquarters in the rear lines, his job exposes him to dangers that the other men in the regiment do not have to face. While popular with the majority of his colleagues he falls foul of the unit's bully, Lance-Corporal Paul Ryder, who tries his best to avoid battle. After a German raid on their trench, Ryder lies to his superiors to both cover up his own cowardice and to put Roux in front of a firing squad.

Written by Mac MacDonald, with internal art by Vila and a painted cover by Ian Kennedy, Killer In No-Man's-Land brings to life a remarkable array of characters in the issue's 135 panels from the quietly heroic Roux and his friends in the trench, his sympathetic Sergeant and Lieutenant, British snipers that he helps out, the bullying Ryder and his henchman, several French soldiers and even a captured German who gets to say rather more than "Kameraden!" Beginning with a condemned man's view of a firing squad, and knowing that Commando's 'standard operating procedure' is one-off stories, you simply do not know who amongst these many characters will live and who will die.

Vila's black and white line art is impressive with rarely a panel going by without multiple characters and background detail while Ian Kennedy's moodily coloured cover leaves the prospective reader deliberately unsure just what the British soldiers are going to be up against in no-man's land.

Commando 4443 - Killer In No-Man's-Land with its tightly plotted story, excellent array of characters, detailed internal art and a lovely atmospheric cover shows just why Commando has lasted for half a century.

Commando 4443 - Killer In No-Man's-Land is available now from WH Smiths, Easons and other newsagents for £1.50.

You can read an 8 page preview of the issue at the official Commando website.

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