Breaking The Rules
Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes reviews Rebellion’s Major Eazy vs Rat Pack…
Major Eazy vs Rat Pack
Writer: Alan Hebden
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
After Rebellion acquired reprint rights to Battle Picture Weekly it understandably started by spotlighting Charley’s War from 1979, probably the most high-profile strip the comic contained. But now the Treasury of British Comics imprint is digging into Battle’s earlier days and its World War II heartland in earnest, with this crossover of two of the regular strips from earlier in the title’s run. Rat Pack had been there at the beginning, appearing in issue one as a spin on The Dirty Dozen, a collection of convicted criminals reluctantly getting involved in front line action as an alternative to prison. Major Eazy arrived a year later, a laid-back British officer with little time for the rules. And in January 1977 for Battle’s one hundredth issue their paths temporarily crossed, at the start of a plot by Alan Hebden that took the Pack’s commander out of the picture so that he could be replaced by Eazy, an uncompromising taskmaster who immediately ranks only slightly above the Nazis on the Pack’s popularity chart.
Carlos Ezquerra draws all these stories, after already pencilling some of Rat Pack and lots of Major Eazy, and being at this point only one month away from the launch of 2000AD and the first appearance of Judge Dredd. The visual style of boys’ 1970s war comics is always a time capsule, a blast from a past that wanted pace rather than subtlety, and speech rather than background. It’s hectic bloodless mayhem in tight three-page bursts, a skill in itself for a creative team to sustain. But Ezquerra was entering a golden period of combining choreography with character details, while Hebden’s stories charge forward. In short order under Eazy’s command the Pack rescue their original commander, go behind the lines in Romania (or “Rumania” here, another time capsule of the 1970s), and fight a Nazi inventor with a device that drives animals and men into murderous rage.
Both Eazy and Rat Pack have had their earlier solo adventures reprinted before when the publishing rights lay elsewhere, but Rebellion has opted to restart with a team-up that took place once the characters were well established – not that the lack of introduction to them here really matters. The Dirty Dozen film was a decade old with X-rated allure and not yet a TV fixture when Rat Pack borrowed its catchy premise, but the film had soaked into WWII pop-culture far enough that playground readers would get the message. And Eazy himself is conspicuously James Coburn plus leather jacket and cheroot, although this makes him considerably more laid-back than the average British army major was likely to be.
The meeting of the two is “the war’s coolest soldier leading the war’s dirtiest fighters,” a tag line showing that Battle know it needed to put on a show in between its political points.