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Avatar Press and War Stories

Garth Ennis’ more modern period and era of work has become defined by one publisher: Avatar Press. While Avatar has not been the only company that has produced his work in recent years, Fury Max: My War Gone By contests that, it has become the one that holds the limelight in his creations.  To the infamous nature of the Crossed franchise to the surprisingly cult-hit that was Rover Red Charlie, Avatar has been pursuing Ennis with great intensity.  


  So it was no shock that Avatar would be the place where Ennis would bring perhaps one of the most well-loved and fondly remembered titles to roost. Starting in 2015 Avatar Press will be publishing a brand new series of Ennis’ War Stories. Fans of Ennis will no doubt be well acquainted with the series, it was a series of, well, war stories. Most notably from the two World Wars, it showcased many sides of the conflicts that were used as the backdrop to rather scathing and touching human drama.   Ennis is no stranger to war and, in fact, many of his works will strive to include soldiers and battle anecdotes to some capacity.  That’s what made War Stories such a perfect fit for this writer. It’s the sort of combination that can really knock it out of the park, when the writer and the genre are perfectly in sync. To get outside of the box, it was like Mark Waid on anything Superman. Of course while even Ennis fans would often get tired of what came off as meandering war trivia, there was nothing but a concentrated effort in War Stories.  


  An effort only seen since then in his Battlefields and Fury Max comics, especially the much lauded “The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova”. Yet, it’s not just this herculean writing effort, there is also the matter of the art that accompanied War Stories. You have the talents of Carlos Ezquerra, Dave Gibbons, and Gary Erskine adorning this series and really firing on a lot of cylinders. Ezquerra most of all given that he has been a common collaborator with Ennis. The fact of the matter is that Avatar Press does not have the roster of artists that can compete. Their artists, like Jacen Burrows and the variety of ones that filter in and out of Crossed, focus more on the visceral.   Very rarely do they have one that can capture anything more than average character emotion on the page. With stories about the hardships and terrors of war, they have to bring out artist talent on a higher level than artists of “ill-repute” like Christian Zanier and the greasy likes Raulo Caceres. Not to knock them, for Avatar’s mission statement they work fine. Maybe more than fine in some cases. Avatar is looking for an audience more suited to violence and the occasional gore kick. That’s their niche and they can’t be faulted for it. Yet it’s the very thing that could ruin this revival for War Stories.  


  It’s a series that doesn’t fit in with Avatar’s status quo. The writing could be just as good as it’s ever been, but the small adjustments of the art could sink it before it can sail. There’s also the possibility that Avatar could have their fingers in the plum pie. Maybe the stories would themselves be tweaked to fit in more with the mold. That’s unlikely, but not far removed from the realm of real plausibility. Of course the biggest threats to this revival are the aforementioned art, and maybe the Avatar audience just isn’t in the mood for it.   It’s almost akin to being if Ennis had taken War Stories to Zenoscope. Sometimes a built in audience isn’t looking for something that breaks away from the pack. I wish the best for this revival, and that Ennis breaks away from the World Wars standard, but it could and may very well fall short. Although the best thing about all this is that it is showing how Avatar is willing to do something different.  


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