Friday, 5 February 2016
Warzones: Where Monsters Dwell: The Phantom Eagle Flies the Savage Skies Review (Garth Ennis, Russ Braun)
It’s the 1920s and ace American pilot and war hero Karl Kaufmann aka the Phantom Eagle agrees to fly buxom English rose Clementine “Clemmie” Franklin-Cox to her husband in Singapore but wuh oh! A storm sends their plane wildly off course and suddenly the Phantom Eagle and Clemmie are… in the Savage Land?!
It was the Secret Wars label - this is a tie-in book - that made me think Where Monsters Dwell might suck but I shouldn’t have worried, it’s Garth Ennis and it’s great! I think it’s quality because it has absolutely nothing to do with Secret Wars - hell, it barely has anything to do with Marvel!
Sure it’s the Savage Land but Marvel didn’t invent the land of dinosaurs - that idea’s been around in fiction since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s day. And the Phantom Eagle? Was anyone aware of this esoteric character? I had to look him up but he was a brief Marvel character who occasionally popped up here and there from 1968 on and Ennis was obviously one of his ten fans (this is Ennis' second Phantom Eagle book, the first being War Is Hell).
Basically you don’t need to know anything about Secret Wars or The Phantom Eagle to enjoy this book – it’s 1920s aviators fighting (but mostly running away from) dinosaurs, and it totally works as a standalone comic.
So I don’t know if this is true to character but I also don’t care: Ennis writes Karl as basically George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman and I happen to love Flashy! A cowardly rascal who took advantage of situations to pretend he was a hero while bunking down with beautiful women - he was great! The character perfectly fits Ennis’ bawdy, silly tone in which he writes the story and some of the jokes are really great too (those poor bastard pygmies!).
But this is Marvel so Ennis and artist Russ Braun have to restrain themselves in the bloodshed, swearing, and sexiness departments - middle fingers are erased, the gore is kept to a minimum, the Amazonians are skimpy but not too skimpy, etc. - in a way that they didn’t when they were working on adults-only series The Boys over at Dynamite.
I loved Braun’s art in this, from the detailed period plane designs to the epic dinosaur fights and all the great scenes Ennis writes for him - he really shows the wider Marvel audience what he can do and I hope he gets more gigs off the back of this. His design for Karl is a lot like Frenchie from The Boys though (he even has similar gogs).
If you’re an Ennis fan like me you’ll love this but also if you’re a Flashman fan or someone who’s looking for a fun little comic full of broad British humour and plenty of dinosaurs, Where Monsters Dwell is a right treat!
Where Monsters Dwell: The Phantom Eagle Flies the Savage Skies