Originally beginning serialisation in the debut issue of the legendary French comic anthology Metal Hurlant, Armies is seen by many as the title that kick-started the heroic fantasy genre in comics. The series quickly became a favourite with the comic reading audience and was a frequent source of inspiration for many creators working in the fantasy genre. In 2013, the series was released in colour for the first time in a deluxe format. Now the series has been reissued in a paperback format meaning no one has any excuse not to check this out.
The book is divided into two sections with the first being made up of a collection of short stories that not only showcase some of the best fantasy art you’ll see in comics but also evokes the feel of the Eerie and Creepy horror comic anthologies from Warren Publishing with some truly nasty twists at the end of them. The two high points being one story that focuses on two friends who continuously stab each other in the back even when they both get sold into slavery and one that focuses on the consequences physically and socially of getting the plague. Jean-Claude Gal particularly shines on the illustration front in these standalone pieces. He clearly spent a lot of time working on this series as the detail he goes to in every individual panel is insane (this cannot be emphasised enough). From the skeletal remains of a battlefield to a tavern with dancing bears to just the good old beautiful outdoors, every page is a painstakingly detailed work of art.
The remaining section of the book consists of the epic tale Arn’s Revenge where the kidnapped son of a king plots his escape from captivity and revenge against those who have made his life hell. Arn’s story is surprisingly complex with a lot of time given by Dionnet and Picaret towards fleshing out his character and why he is so motivated to survive despite the hardships he has been dealt. And once again, Gal’s art is insanely detailed with the scenes inside and outside Imerose’s palace being particularly impressive. Reading the book as a whole, the influence it had on modern fantasy comics is as clear as day. Slaine writer Pat Mills goes into this in depth in the post script to the collection as he discusses how the series helped inspire both his writing and his team of artists work on Slaine. It’s definitely worth a read.
If you’re a fan of fantasy comics, this is arguably one of the definitive fantasy comics of the last few decades so reading this one is a no brainer. But if you also want something with a horror tinge and some dark bleak stories that as Mills says “superbly show the follies of warriors and the reality of war,” this is must read stuff.
9781594658594 – P/B £15.99
Post by Leo