Review by Roy Boyd
Britain’s SAS are an elite commando unit that take on all sorts of risky missions, whether spectacularly storming the Iranian embassy back in 1980 to end a hostage situation, or hunting war criminals in Yugoslavia. From the outset, they have been plagued by disasters, failed missions and controversy, yet they’ve weathered it all to emerge as one of the world’s most famous and respected fighting forces.
The Regiment, Book 1 (subtitle: The True Story of the SAS) reads like a big budget version of one of DC Thomson’s Commando comics. That’s not an insult, but a compliment. Commando comics may have had many failings, but there was usually little doubt that the writers and artists really knew their stuff. In fact, many had first hand experience of their subject, and this depth of knowledge helped to inform all the stories.
One assumes writer Vincent Brugeas and artist Thomas Legrain don’t have that level of experience, and they’re unlikely to have been around for most of the events detailed in this book. It means the level of research, both in terms of story and background details, is impressive, with all details ringing true.
Given its documentary nature, this series has to dispense with some conventions of storytelling, opting instead for a tale that, while it doesn’t always follow a normal dramatic arc, has more than its fair share of exciting incidents and tense character interactions. And enough explosions and gunfights to satisfy any fan of war comics.
The artwork is polished, opting for a documentary style that ideally suits the subject matter. If there’s anything negative to be said about the art, it’s that there seems to have been some prettifying of the main actors in our story. While the real men looked exactly as you’d expect a bunch of World War II British soldiers and officers to look, the versions in this tale look more like they’ve been based on Liam Neeson and Chris Hemsworth. The colouring, by the wonderfully named Elvire De Cock, is also worth a mention, with a great deal of the shading added at the colouring stage.
Seven pages of bonus material kicks off with: “June 1941. Europe was entirely occupied by the Third Reich. Well, not entirely. One island still held out against the invaders.” This is amusingly similar to the introduction in all the Asterix books. Then the writer (or translator) makes the egregious error of saying England when they actually mean the United Kingdom. This is rather insensitive as two of the three men who formed this unit were Scots and Irish (the third was Australian, and born in Calcutta). Leaving that aside, the remainder of material on offer provides comprehensive datelines, biographies of the major players, maps, interviews and much more.
All in all, an admirably thorough and straightforward introduction to the subject that leaves the reader keen to know more of this fascinating story. Fortunately there are two further volumes that do just that, starting with Book 2.