Listen very carefully, I will say this only once. I love Madamoiselle Marie. A longtime fixture of DC’s old war comics line, she was a reminder that the Big One wasn’t just won by the men. And if she had to occasionally dress as a French tart, well, how often did Sgt Rock keep his shirt on for a full adventure? Hey kids, it’s sex and violence.
Times having changed, there’s more sex here than in the old stories, though the violence levels are about the same. It all works in context, as Special Operations Executive agent Marie meets a cadre of French Resistance fighters to pass on funding for an operation to blow up railway lines. By issue’s end we’ve had conflict within and without the group, several explosions, two bedroom scenes, loads of gunshot and Marie in the chase of her life.
It’s heady stuff, well-plotted by writer Billy Tucci. The dialogue is sparky, but falls into the old trap of constantly dropping in French phrases to remind us we’re not in Metropolis any more. There’s one instance in which a French character – who, remember, we’re already reading ‘in translation’ – cries out a patriotic phrase to his French camarades (oh look, I’m doing it now), then translates it. We’re reading French translated into English and back into French, then English once more.
Ah well, that’s war comics for you – I’m not going to worry too much when a book is as all-out entertaining as this. Action, intrigue, berets … what more could you wish for? And it’s all illustrated beautifully by pencillers Justiniano and Tom Derenick, and inker Andrew Mangum. The French countryside is well evoked (don’t ask me if it’s authentic, I’ve never been further than chitterling-crazy Paris) and the characters as motley as you could wish. The vehicles of war look good, the ‘acting’ is fine – Marie in particular has a wonderfully sexy intelligence and determination to her – and the story is well-told. A shout-out, too, to colourist Tom Chu for amping up the drama with his choices and applications, and to letterer Sal Cipriano for pulling off the bilingual assignment.
And ooh-la-la, that Brian Bolland cover, with Marie a beacon of brightness in a grim human landscape.
This is the first of DC’s current spate of one-off war book revivals that I’ve read. It won’t be the last.