Writer Carlos Puerta and artist Pierre Veys continue their slight twist on the life of World War One fighter ace Manfred Von Richthofen in the second part of their Red Baron series, Rain Of Blood.
Von Richthofen’s heightened ability to know the thoughts of those who he is fighting with leads him to want to control the combat. However his position of observer/gunner in reconnaissance bombers of the Fliegertruppen in 1915 does not allow that to happen and so he trains to be a pilot. He gains his first aerial combat victory in the sky over the French fortress of Verdun in March 1916 where, flying an Albatros CIII modified with a forward firing machine gun, he chances upon a French Nieuport with an inexperienced pilot whose gun had jammed. The dogfight was short as Von Richthofen brutally despatched his victim and then savoured the victory afterwards. Later meeting up with Willy, an old friend, he tells him of his ability however Willy remains unconvinced about this mind-reading his opponents until he sees Von Richthofen fight a champion boxer.
This Red Baron series takes the reality of Manfred Von Richthofen’s WWI flying career and uses it as the basis for this story which gives the fictional character a mind-reading ability when he is under attack. Despite this preternatural ability the story remains very much grounded in reality and for a lot of this book that is the reality of war. While this second book in the series has much less of the calculated brutality of the first, due to the nature of the story it is still there and Cinebook have unsurprisingly classified the series with their highest age rating of 15+.
Many passages in Rain Of Blood are silent and it is to artist Pierre Veys’ credit that the story never falters during them. Indeed be it the aerial combat or the bare-chested boxing his artwork remains, as in the first book of the series, detailed, dynamic and above all accurate. Despite the plan drawing on the back cover of a Fokker Dreidecker, the plane that the Red Baron is most famous for flying, writer Carlos Puerta rarely allows the text of the book to dwell on the aircraft on display thus preventing the story getting bogged down in the sort of factual details that most readers would find tiresome.
While the boxing match climax of this book is less visually striking than the excellent low-level aerial combat climax of the previous one, Red Baron – Rain Of Blood maintains the impressive artwork and intriguing plotline of the first, though, lthough given that the real Red Baron’s string of aerial victories was brought to an abrupt end in April 1918 I wonder just how many more books this series can run for.
• There are more details of the Red Baron books on the Cinebook website
• There are more details of the original French Baron Rouge albums at the Zephyr Editions website (in French)
• The downthetubes review of Red Baron – The Machine Gunners’ Ball is here
• The third Red Baron book, Dungeons and Dragons, is due to be published in France in January 2015. Cinebook have yet to release their publishing schedule for 2015 but it is listed in Rain Of Blood as “Coming Soon”