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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

In Review: Buck Danny - Ghost Squadron

After a gap of over two years Cinebook return to US military pilot Colonel Buck Danny in Francis Bergese's Ghost Squadron, originally published in France in 1996 as L'Escadrille Fantôme, the 46th Buck Danny album.

Colonel Buck Danny and his squadron are flying F/A-18 Hornet attack fighters from the carrier USS Eisenhower as part of the NATO Operation Deny Flight no-fly mission over Bosnia in 1995. Operating under strict 'no attack' orders, their planes are sometimes targeted by Serb ground forces and, when Lt Cindy McPherson's Hornet is hit, Danny's colleague Captain Sonny Tuckson attacks and destroys the missile battery that hit her.

As punishment, Tuck is reassigned to a secret squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons commanded by Danny that are due to launch a bombing strike on Serb positions, however their secrecy is threatened when a unidentified MiG-29 Fulcrum is spotted near the base.

Cinebook's previous Buck Danny title, The Secrets Of The Black Sea, was set during Russia's Glasnost period while this one moves on slightly to the war in the former Yugoslavia and the Serb forces siege of Sarajevo in 1995. As both writer and artist, Francis Bergese weaves a story that is a fictional precursor to the real Operation Deliberate Force that effectively ended the Bosnian war by bombing the Serbs to the peace table.

A scene from Buck Danny - Ghost SquadronDanny's secret mission in unmarked F-16s places his men in jeopardy of being attacked not just by the Serb ground forces and the mysterious MiG-29 squadron, but by their own side as well and Bergese provides a battle royale as a massive dog fight breaks out between the F-16s, the MiG-29s and the Eisenhower's F/A-18s, with a few RAF Tornado F3s and French Air Force Mirage 2000s thrown in for good measure. It is somewhat amusing that in a book written and illustrated by a Frenchman the only fighters in the battle that do not have at least one of their number shot down are the French Mirages.

Francis Bergese's artwork is always impressive when is comes to the aircraft. Indeed the US Navy squadron that Danny and co begin the book with is Strike Fighter Squadron 37 operating as part of Carrier Air Wing 3 and I can tell you that not because it is in the text, because it is not, but because all the information is there in his artwork. He even goes as far as making the one UK military registration that we can just about read on the RAF planes a genuine Tornado F3 registration number. That is the level of detail and accuracy that he works to in his artwork.

A scene from Buck Danny - Ghost SquadronThe storyline is perhaps less impressive, getting shoehorned into a real life situation with genuine military tactics makes for a solid, if somewhat uninspiring, plot. The addition towards the end of the mercenary pilot known as Lady X, a longtime Buck Danny adversary in the French books but never before seen in the Cinebook translations, lifts the book away from its real-world foundations and onto somewhat shakier ground.

If Bergese's writing was as good as his artwork then this would be a great book, as it is Buck Danny - Ghost Squadron is merely good but, given that it was the first book in the series that he had written as well as drawn, we can hope that further titles will improve as Bergese grew into the idea of being Buck Danny's writer as well as his artist.

• There are more details of the English language Buck Danny books on the Cinebook website. 

There are more details (in English) of the French language Buck Danny books on the Dupois website.

Cinebook will be selling their range of books including Buck Danny at Thought Bubble's Royal Armouries Hall in Leeds on the weekend of 17-18 November 2012.

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