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Enemy Ace
Enemy Ace
by Robert Kanigher (Author) & Joe Kubert (Illustrator)
Published by von Hammer
20 July 2016
Author review
Average 100%
Enemy Ace

Showcase Presents: Enemy Ace, Vol. 1
By Robert Kanigher (Author), Joe Kurbert (Illustrator)
Paperback: 552 pages
Publisher: DC Comics; First Edition edition (February 13, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1401217214

Enemy Ace is a series of WW1 aviation comics that ran from 1965 to 1982 in DC war titles such as Star Spangled War Stories, Men at War and Unknown Soldier. Written exclusively by Robert Kanigher and illustrated (for the most part) by the highly prolific comic artist Joe Kurbert, the series winged off the beaten path to tell the ‘enemy side’ of the Great War through the battle-weary eyes of German fighter pilot Baron Hans von Hammer, aka ‘the Hammer of Hell,’ a top-ranking ace and the Rittmeister of his own Jasta squadron.

Von Hammer is loosely based on Manfred von Richthofen as they are both are aristocrats, fly red Fokker triplanes, collect trophies commemorating their victories, spend all their free time hunting and have an affinity for canines. But von Hammer is a very tortured man, for being a descendant of Prussian knights and having been versed since childhood in the lessons of chivalry and honor he struggles to reconcile the values of his upbringing with the savagery of modern aerial combat where mercy is met with death and personal honor is an antiquated joke. Trying to strike a balance he plays the role of ‘sky-knight’ to the hilt, refusing to fire upon Allied airmen with jammed or emptied guns and saluting his victims as they go down. Yet despite his chivalric gestures his prowess as a hunter and a marksman are so great that his own men consider him an inhuman ‘human killing machine’ as his victory tally continues to rise. Even his Fokker ‘speaks’ to him, calling him a killer and a murderer. Women are both attracted and repelled by him and call him an ‘angle of death.’ The only solace and relief he finds is in hunting in the Black Forest with a lone wolf who he considers his only friend and the only creature who truly understands him. Life is lonely and brutal for this German kanonen, but never allows himself to be discouraged from doing his duty and serving his country. “The sky is the killer of us all!” he contends, trying to justify himself to himself, and his only hope is that when his own time comes he can die as valiantly as his Allied victims.

The Allied aces he fights are a diverse lot ranging from a lethal French count dubbed ‘the Hangman’ to a reckless American cowboy known as ‘the Balloon Buster’ (inspired by the ace Frank Luke) to a quasi-insane English ace who considers himself to be St. George. Most of his foes are as chivalrous as von Hammer is and there is much dueling to be had, both on the ground as well as in the air. Yet even in when mercy is not shown von Hammer refuses to alter his stance and woe to any German airmen under is command that proves himself dishonorable. Rather then dehumanize his foes, von Hammer identifies with them as fellow soldiers stuck in the turmoil of war. But they are not the only danger: he also has to contend with spies, insubordination, crashes, imprisonment, a ruthless High Command, injuries, battle-fatigue and the continuous deaths of the young aviators he leads. War is still hell, even in the air, and for all his knightly courtesy von Hammer remains a fearsome super-ace who writes his bloody story in flames and tracers across the killer skies of WWI Europe.

The Showcase edition contains nearly all the original Enemy Ace stories written from the 60’s to the 80’s and contains some of Kurbert’s best artwork, although the panels in this volume are all in black-and-white. Kurbert’s dogfights are pieces of art in and of themselves and von Hammer’s grim and haunted facial expressions are not to be forgotten quickly. Highly recommended both for artistic quality and for showcasing a man who retains his honor and maintains the moral fortitude not to waver in his values and become debased by war.

For those of you with more money to spend there are also two special edition volumes that contain many Enemy Ace stories in full color:

The Enemy Ace Archives, Vol. 1 (DC Archive Editions)

The Enemy Ace Archives, Vol. 2 (DC Archive Editions)
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