In Review: The Sarge Volume One

Out today in all good book and comic shops, The Sarge Volume One, the title from Rebellion’s Treasury of British Comics imprint, is a cracking war comic romp, ripped from the pages of Battle, that more than passes muster for all-out action adventure

The Book: They depended on The Sarge. And the world depended on them. British Sergeant Jim Masters, a veteran of World War One, has to protect and lead his inexperienced platoon during World War Two. From Dunkirk to North Africa, the might of the German Army face the ultimate adversaries when Masters and his boys spring into action… Nothing can substitute experience!

The Review: “The Sarge” featured in Battle over two long runs, the first from the issues cover dated 25th June 1977 to 16th December 1978, quickly returning in the issue cover dated 6th January 1979; and continuing until the issue cover dated 27th December 1980.

It’s an impressive run, the story written by Gerry Finley-Day, mainly drawn by Mike Western, with some episodes by Jim Watson, with inks on one episode by Mike Dorey, the adventure opening during the so-called “Phoney War” of 1940. Pipe-smoking Great War veteran Jim Masters quickly rallies a group of beleaguered British Expeditionary Force soldiers hit hard by the Germans, getting the survivors back to Britain, against the odds.

A page from the opening episode of "THe Sarge" from Battle Action, story by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Mike Western, from the 2022 collection, "The Sarge" Volume One
A page from the opening episode of "THe Sarge" from Battle Action, story by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Mike Western, from the 2022 collection, "The Sarge" Volume One
Above: Opening pages from the first episode of the Battle Action war story, “The Sarge”, the strip by Gerry Finley-Day, with art by Mike Western, quickly setting out its premise

Surviving the aftermath of Dunkirk, The Sarge is quickly posted off to battle Nazis in North Africa, Jim Masters aided by the ever-loyal Corporal Tom Savage, Private Sid Strong and “Specky” Spence, and a fast-rotating cast of characters both good and bad.

This volume, presented with the strip’s original colour spreads, takes The Sarge through the deadly desert campaign and closes with the team’s arrival in Sicily.

The early stories quickly establish Masters cunning and skills as a veteran soldier, the team’s adventures classic war comic yarns that often stretch credibility but are, nevertheless, exciting, fast-paced tales.

A spread from the ongoing Battle Action series"The Sarge" from Battle Action, story by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Mike Western, from the 2022 collection, "The Sarge" Volume One
A spread from the ongoing Battle Action series”The Sarge” from Battle Action, story by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Mike Western
A spread from the ongoing Battle Action series"The Sarge" from Battle Action, story by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Mike Western, from the 2022 collection, "The Sarge" Volume One
A spread from the ongoing Battle Action series”The Sarge” from Battle Action, story by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Mike Western

Soon, however, Finley-Day’s ability to create characters readers care about soon takes hold, and readers buying Battle Action week by week must have wondered just who might survive the adventure. There’s no doubting Finley-Day’s ability to make you care about the fate of some of the cast, although it has to be said that can’t be said of a single enemy soldier in this story, most portrayed as the worst of the worst. To a man, the enemy combatants in this story are some of the most brutal, violent sociopaths ever to feature in Battle Action, their murderous intent matched only by their stupidity, when they take on the Sarge and company.

While “The Sarge” is very much classic British war comics, albeit sown through with the brutal realism that made Battle such a success in its time, it’s the breathless quality of the storytelling, combined with regular artist and co-creator Mike Western’s ability to handle ensemble action, his visuals getting stronger as the story continues, that made “The Sarge” such a memorable and popular part of Battle for so many readers.

This collection includes a suitably enthusiastic introduction from Garth Ennis, an afterword from Mike’s son, artist Peter Western, recalling memories of his much-loved father’s work regime; and a small cover gallery.

If you’re looking for a grand war yarn in the spirit of the best British war movies, to while away an afternoon; if you’re a fan of the brilliant creative team, writer and artist; then The Sarge is perfect reading. Enjoy!

John Freeman

PLEASE NOTE: This review is based a digital review copy.

Pete Western has kindly sent us this image of the print edition, so you can see how the colour spreads “fall” in the print edition (ie, if art disappears into the book “gutter”).

“In most cases, the double page spreads read fine without squashing the pages,” he tells us.

• The Sarge Volume One is available from all good bookshops and comic shops via Diamond | Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) | the Treasury of British comics webshop

• Available in digital from: Treasury of British Comics webshop and apps for iPad, Android and Windows 10

• The Sarge Volume One by Gerry Finley-Day (Writer) Mike Western, Jim Watson (Artists)
Out: 12th May 2022
Hardcover, 144 pages
Price: £19.99
ISBN: 9781786186331
Publisher: Treasury of British Comics
Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

The Sarge – The Creators

Gerry Finley-Day

One of the most prolific writers in the comic’s history, Gerry Finley-Day holds a special place in many 2000AD fans’ hearts as the creator of classics like Rogue Trooper, “Fiends of the Eastern Front” and “The V.C.s”, as well as “Harry 20 on the High Rock” and “Ant Wars”.

A keen “ideas man”, Finley-Day’s concepts of the horrors future warfare had in store were key to both Rogue and The V.C.s’ continuing popularity, ensuring that their recent return to the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic was well-received. Finley-Day also scripted episodes of Judge Dredd and Dan Dare, and co-scripted much of “Invasion!” (and entirely scripted the prequel story, “Disaster 1990!”).

Mike Western's illustration of The Sarge which he gave to Rufus Dayglo
Mike Western’s illustration of The Sarge which he gave to artist Rufus Dayglo

Mike Western

Battle - Mike Western Portrait

Widely regarded as one of the best artists to ever grace the British comic industry, Mike Western, who died in 2008, aged 83, began his career on Knockout, having already spent time working for GB Animation.

During the 1950s, he shared art chores with Eric Bradbury on the popular western strip, “Lucky Logan”. In 1960, he moved onto TV Express, where he drew “No Hiding Place” and “Biggles”.

Buster and Valiant followed, and Mike found himself drawing long-running strips such as “Wild Wonders”.

In the 1970s, he was even more prolific, illustrating Buster’s “The Leopard from Lime Street”, and the gritty Battle stories “Darkie’s Mob” and “HMS Nightshade”.

Returning to the new Eagle in the 1980s, Mike also made an impact with the sport story “Billy’s Boots” (for Tiger) and with his 1990s “Roy of the Rovers” Daily Star newspaper strip.

• Read our features: Mike Western: A Tribute | Mike Western Remembered

Jim Watson

A spread from the ongoing Battle Action series"The Sarge" from Battle Action, story by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Jim Watson, from the 2022 collection, "The Sarge" Volume One
A spread from the ongoing Battle Action series”The Sarge” from Battle Action, story by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Jim Watson

Jim Watson, who died in 2018, is perhaps best known for his work on TV Century 21 during the 1960s and his strips for DC Thomson’s Commando and Warlord, and the Fleetway title, Battle Picture Weekly.

Born in the 1930s, Jim, who lived in, Scotland, had been ill for some time, suffering from Vascular Dementia, diagnosed in 2014. This, sadly, meant we were unable to progress a hoped-for interview that we attempted to secure at around the same time with help from artist Graham Manley.

However, the late Colin Noble did provide downthetubes with a terrific guide to Jim’s work in 2015.

Anyone who grew up in the 1960s reading TV Century 21 would instantly recognise his distinctive work, particularly on some of the darkest adventures faced in the comic by “Captain Scarlet”, as well as his art on “Zero X” and “Thunderbirds”.

Jim was also the creator of “Colony Earth”, a short serial originally published in 2000AD (Progs 52 to 61) in 1978, and worked on Tornado (drawing “Victor Drago’s Black Museum of Villains), a title that was quickly merged with 2000AD after just over twenty issues.

Among his many other credits he also drew, uncredited, “Hellman on the Russian Front”, “Hellman of Hammer Force” and “Gang-Smashers!” for Action, for the short-lived title True War.

In the 1980s he drew for the short-lived horror comic, Scream!, drawing one-shot stories variously titled “Tales from the Grave”, “Ghastly Tales” and “Library of Death”. He also provided some covers, and drew, uncredited, “The Scary Cat Challenge” for Super Naturals.

• Comic Creator Spotlight: Comic Artist Jim Watson – feature by Colin Noble

In Memoriam: TV Century 21 and Battle comic artist Jim Watson

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Collections, Comic Creator Spotlight, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Reviews

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1 reply

  1. Great artwork, and those 2-page spread panel layouts are, IMHO, fantastic.

    Now, there is only one Sarge in comics for me, and that’s Kubert’s Sgt. Rock 🙂

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