Review by Frank Plowright
The peculiar title neatly encapsulates the story. The Sherman Firefly was an American tank modified by the British toward the end of World War II via the fitting of a powerful anti-tank gun, and the featured German tank is the heavily armoured King Tiger. Some crew aboard the Firefly used in this tale were introduced in Tankies by Garth Ennis, the standout character being the foul-mouthed Geordie, now Sergeant Stiles, a tank commander with plenty of experience and a respect for tanks in general.
Ennis delivers Stiles’ broad accent phonetically, reading like something from Viz Comic, and difficult enough for British readers to decipher, so be warned if you have a low tolerance for anything that’s not spelled out and made easy. After concentrating on Stiles in his previous appearance, Ennis fleshes out the remainder of the crew here, with Carlos Ezquerra’s talent for character design ensuring they’re all distinguished.
In Tankies Ennis reinforced the superiority of the German panzer when compared to tanks used by allied forces, and takes that as the starting point for The Firefly and his Majesty. As the allies continue to move into Germany during February 1945 they come across pockets of resistance, and one of them is led by a tank commander every bit as dedicated to his cause as Stiles, and more ruthless with it. Ennis spends time with the Germans, reinforcing why some are still fighting when their cause is all but lost. He’s extremely good at peppering his stories with very funny anecdotes, based on truth, then instantly switching the mood to tragedy, also based on truth, and after that the final chapter is a game of cat and mouse, Stiles’ personal mission.
There’s more substance to this story than Stiles’ introduction, along with the rest of the cast, personalising him beyond his initial caricature, but the final pages don’t quite succeed at what’s intended. Stiles’ retribution has a terrible cost, and an abrupt ending has good shock value without acknowledging that cost, and the story would have been stronger for doing so. Stiles takes a final bow in The Green Fields Beyond, while this is collected along with Happy Valley and Motherland in volume two of The Complete Battlefields.