Review by John Freeman
Commando 5269: Action and Adventure: House of Death
Story: Richard Davis | Art and Cover: Carlos Pino
Stalingrad, 1942. Things are looking dire as the Nazi army pushes further into the city, determined to capture the namesake of Hitler’s hated rival, Josef Stalin. Throughout the war-torn city are fortified buildings manned by small numbers of the Red Army and Stalingrad militia sworn to obey Stalin’s No.227 order – ‘Not a step back!’.
In one building, three Red Army soldiers, a young female partisan and a member of a penal battalion man a fortification called The Red House – but how long can they defend it before it becomes their graves?
The Review: I bought a digital edition of this 2019 Commando in memory of my friend, Colin Noble, a comics archivist of high acclaim and much admired, who passed recently, because I knew artist Carlos Pino had sneakily included him as a cameo within its pages, as a Soviet doctor in beleaguered Stalingrad. But I enjoyed the adventure anyway, recalling how I’d first learnt of the Battle of Stalingrad watching World at War in the 1970s.
Commando is a title aimed at readers of early teens and up, but doesn’t gloss over the human cost of the siege. “House of Death” deftly tells a more personal story of a small battle to hold the line, its focus largely on the Soviet participants, a veteran soldier, a lucky convict and an inexperienced but dedicated girl, pitted, some would say pointlessly, against relentless Nazi attack.
It’s a given that some will survive, but who and how is part of the story’s appeal, tightly scripted by Richard Davis.
Artist Carlos Pino has been drawing comics for decades, his easy line and accomplished storytelling skills helping deliver a great story. Obviously, my choice of reading here was a little sentimental, but I’m glad I did it; the story is well told, and the art easy on they eye.
A shout out, too, for the digital delivery; Commando is the perfect title for reading on a tablet, its largely two panel per page format making for future-proofed reading. There’s no scrolling around the page to read each panel, and for my current eyes, this is more than reason enough to opt for a this version of the long-running title. In fact, so much so, I’ve probably bought more recent issues this way than in print, especially given limited availability of the paper edition locally. Recommended.