Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Commando is a black-and-white British war comics digest that publishes four issues every two weeks. Two of those issues feature reprints, two feature new stories. It launched in July 1963 and, as of this writing, I’ve received up to issue #5226.

Received? That’s correct. I subscribed to Commando a couple years back. Each issue features a 63-page story of generally one to three panels per page. I’ve described them to friends as being somewhat like the non-series stories that used to run in the back of DC war comics titles like Our Army at War, albeit a bit more involved than the DC Comics tales. Those DC stories rarely exceeded eight pages.

Back issues of Commando have been steady sellers at the conventions I’ve brought them to and at  my garage sales. As much as I enjoy them, these issues mount up too quickly for me to keep them. My current pile of unread issues numbers 74. So I read them and then sell them to others for fifty cents to a dollar. I take a loss on them, but I like exposing my customers to pretty great comics they would not otherwise see.

Commando #5153 featured “The Red Devil” by writer Iain McLaughlin with art by the great Vicente Alcazar, who I worked with a bit in the 1970s. The cover is by Graeme Neil Reid.

Commando stopped being an all-boys club a long time ago. This tale is about Irina Dzenkho, a young Russian woman who lives alone on a farm. Her parents have passed and she lost both of her brothers to the war. The Germans are coming closer every day.

When Russian soldiers try to seize her farm animals for food, Irina holds them off with her expert marksmanship. However, when Germans approach, she and the soldiers forget their differences to battle their common enemy. She leaves with the soldiers to join others fleeing the invaders.

The Germans have taken everything from Irina. She refuses to give her rifle to the Russian army, saying she’s a better shot than any of her homeland soldiers. The soldiers who fought with her back her claim. An exasperated officer says to get the woman a uniform. So she’s in the army now.

Before long, her skill has made her very valuable to her officers. She becomes the deadliest sniper and, in doing so, becomes a little harder with every kill.

In its poignant conclusion, the story asks if Irina and the other Russians can ever go back to who they were before the war. It’s an  unanswered question that will haunt readers.

“The Red Devil” is one of the best stories I’ve read this year. At the end of the year, I hope to present a list of my choices for the best comics of the year. This first year would be a shorter list on account of I’m just starting to take note of these stories. Expect more of these short bloggy things.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Spent some time looking over eBay and Amazon for back issues of this title, ordering one 3-in-1 collection and finding a large range of prices from reasonable to ridiculous. You do make it sound like an interesting book so I'll be curious about my first order.