Cinebook present a new series, Red Baron, set during the First World War and “loosely inspired” by the life of German fighter ace Manfred Von Richthofen, written by Pierre Veys and illustrated by Carlos Puerta. This isn’t the Luftwaffe against the RAF as neither existed at this point in time, it is the Imperial German Flying Corps (Fliegertruppen) against the Royal Flying Corps (RFC).
A German Albatross fighter is chasing a British SPAD in a dogfight seen from the German pilot’s point of view. The German pilot, Von Richthofen, wounds the British pilot who is able to land his aircraft. Von Richthofen lands beside him and, standing beside the British plane, looks on silently as the British pilot dies of his wounds.
Ten years earlier in Berlin, the student Von Richthofen is involved in an altercation with the arrogant Prince Friedrich and his cronies during which he realises that he is able to read the minds of his opponents enough to know their tactics and therefore be one step ahead of them in a fight. To test out his new found talent, Von Richthofen ventures into a dangerous part of the city at night in an attempt to deliberately be mugged. As his new skill allows him to defeat the muggers, he takes pleasure in killing each of them.
Writer Pierre Veys takes the basics of the real Manfred Von Richthofen’s life and has added a preternatural ability to know when and how his life is in danger. Of course that part isn’t real but much of the rest is at least based on the reality of the life of the highest scoring ace of the First World War and perhaps the most famous fighter pilot ever at least as far as the general public are concerned. Veys gives the plot a very intimate feel as we get the thoughts of the main character as he discovers his ability, then taunts the muggers into attacking him before casually wiping his bloodied sword stick on the dress of the woman who was egging them on and then killing her.
Carlos Puerta’s artwork is remarkable, realistically detailed in a fully painted format and while it does perhaps show a little of the photo-referencing that he has used, this only serves to emphasis the amount of research and detail he puts into his panels. The final section of story tells of Von Richthofen’s early flying days in mid-1915 as a machine gunner/observer in reconnaissance aircraft. Puertas artwork shines here as he does a superb job on a dogfight between two reconnaissance bombers, a Farman Shorthorn on the British side and an AEG G.IV on the German side, as they perform a Star Wars Death Star trench type battle along a river in a Belgian city. Kudos must also go to Cinebook for printing this book in their large format, the size that it would have originally been published in France, rather than the smaller US sized format they use for most of their adventure titles as it allows readers to make the most of the artwork.
Red Baron – The Machine Gunner’s Ball will not be to everyone’s taste due to the calculated brutality of its fictionalised main character but it is an interesting twist on the reality of the Red Baron that comes with some truly glorious artwork and that makes it well worth looking at.
• There are more details of the Red Baron books on the Cinebook website.
• The second Red Baron book, Rain Of Blood, will be published by Cinebook in September 2014
• There are more details of the original French Baron Rouge albums at the Zephyr Editions website (in French).