Major Eazy: The Italian Campaign

Major Eazy: The Italian Campaign
Major Easy The Italian Campaign review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: Rebellion Treasury of British Comics - 978-1-78108-981-1
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2021
  • UPC: 9781781089811
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

From his introduction in 1970s weekly boys’ comic Battle, the rebellious Major Eazy was an immediate hit with young readers. Based by writer Alan Hebden on Clint Eastwood, but drawn by artist Carlos Ezquerra to resemble James Coburn, Eazy gets things done. He hates authority, he hates red tape, and he hates anyone who makes life harder for his men. A major in the British Army commands up to 120 troops, and unlike others in his position, Eazy’s out in the field with them leading missions from the front, usually in his distinctive Bentley car.

Hebden introduces Eazy taking command of a troop at the foot of Italy in 1943, and broadly follows the path the British army and allies took liberating Italy over the next two years. Hebden’s a history buff, but never loses sight of what the readers want, which is Eazy undertaking impossible missions in style, coming up with unconventional solutions and putting practicality above orders. He’ll be seen fraternising with Germans, understanding many of them no more wanted to be fighting than he did, but despising the ideological Nazis.

Ezquerra was on the cusp of creating Judge Dredd and his world when drawing Eazy, but while Dredd has grown to encompass wildly different artistic interpretations, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else being such a good match for Eazy. Ezquerra revels in the grubby and the gritty of Eazy and his surroundings, loves crashing his car through panel borders, those panels packed with people and their equipment. It’s also a storytelling masterclass considering how much happens in 20-25 panels.

The first two-thirds of this collection was reprinted in 2012 as Heart of Iron. That has the benefit of being a hardcover with Hebden providing a longer interview, but the black and white reproduction of colour pages is poor. Here effort has been made to reproduce them accurately, although that’s qualified by noting the colour is basic. Where this paperback collection really pulls ahead is by moving beyond Eazy’s years in Italy.

During the Italian stories Hebden occasionally drops references to a disreputable past. Despite his heroics, Eazy doesn’t like to draw attention, publicity is anathema to the point of faking cowardice in preference to accepting a medal, and he mentions people he doesn’t want to run into again. When it was decided to continue Eazy’s adventures beyond the liberation of Italy, instead of pressing forward, Hebden wound back to summer 1941 and Eazy in the North African desert.

There’s little change. Sand replaces mountains as scenery, and a Bedouin guide named Tewfik is a more visually interesting sounding board than Sarge. Here, though, Hebden was able to use the exploits of David Stirling and his unconventional methods forty years before the SAS Rogue Heroes TV show. The opening episode starts with Eazy and Tewfik driving through a German camp tossing grenades and stealing a tank before the revelation that it was just a beer run, brilliantly encapsulating Eazy’s style and personality.

One significant change in the desert is Hebden no longer feeling the need to compress an adventure into a single chapter. Three are required to deal with a greedy local chieftain, featuring the unlikely but credibly handled teaming of Eazy with German general Rommel. It’s usually only Eazy and Tewfik involved as well, with little sign of any other men Eazy may be commanding. Whether Eazy’s in Italy or Libya, though, he’s involved in still funny and enthralling adventures making the impossible credible, and this is a banging collection.