Cold War With A Twist
Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman takes a look at TKO Presents Sara, out now…
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Epting
Colours: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letters: Rob Steen
Fledgling publisher TKO Studios have certainly brought in considerable name talents to their roster – clearly they mean to compete, but they have also opted to go with an individualistic approach, with artists and writers who have certainly been part of the mainstream for the odd interval, but are here to go against the grain.
Garth Ennis and Steve Epting’s Sara is a moody slow burn of a piece – perhaps definitively. Unlike the dark, mercurial pyrotechnics of current super-hero fodder, this is a bleak and glacial affair, punctuated with the occasional graphic, yet rarely visceral violence. Sara is a sniper, one of a small brigade of female soldiers moulded into ruthless, efficient agents of death, in a perpetual night time world set in an alternative reality. In this case, the setting is an attritional war played out in an unspecified time on a snowy area of tundra somewhere in Eastern Europe between Soviets, and invading Nazis – the girls being on the Russian side.
The action routinely flips between the hermetic claustrophobia of the girls’ barracks and the field, where swathes of Nazi cannon fodder are systematically cut down – the drama plays out as an infantry exercise, with the odd tank, but very few planes to speak of. This is an odd contrivance, but Ennis’s carefully constructed world suspends such qualms. Most of the dialogue is pared down and blunt, the girls rarely showing any emotion in a survivalist milieu where death is to be expected and not feared. In battle, the inner thoughts of the protagonists shift to logistics and the mechanisms of knowing and outwitting the enemy. Introspection is generally shunned, which does create a vacuum – we learn little of what motivates Sara and her crew, their focus being the maintenance of their inbred culture of unquestioning loyalty and dispassionate revenge. Only in the closing stages, where matters reach their natural conclusion, do we get some context – again, this could be Ennis’s tactic of revealing little to maximise impact at the end.
Sara is a polished, meticulously crafted work with excellent production values, its use of light and muted colour cinematic, with Epting’s pencils having a ligne claire feel to them. Its storytelling is measured and professional, but it does sometimes fail to engage – one doesn’t really connect with the characters, who aren’t given the space to breath or express their differences. It’s as if part of the canvas has been left blank, forcing the reader to provide more closure than is available. Or maybe it was meant to be that subtle and understated – the denouement, very much as stately and anticlimactic as any other part of the miniseries, beguiles simply because it is the end, the emotive tableau of Sara’s previous life a dusting on top of the cake that gives way to the present and the inevitable. In a way it’s worth the wait, but it isn’t redemptive – the implacable, pervasive nihilism eschews any kind of transcendence.
Nevertheless Sara is certainly a worthwhile read, and if it wasn’t for the fact that both artist and writer are both distinguished in their field in any case I’d say that it shows much promise for the publisher. If TDK manage to keep this standard up on future projects, I can see this company making substantial inroads in the marketplace.
Sara is Out now from TKO Presents