The Lion and The Eagle #1: An Uncomfortable Look at War –

By Christian Hoffer
Garth Ennis and P.J. Holden have returned to the genre of war comics with The Lion & The Eagle, a look at the campaign for control of Burma during World War II. Ennis is best known for his depraved satires like The Boys or violent parables like Preacher, but he has also written several straightforward and unapologetic war comics, usually focusing on World War II. The latest of these is The Lion & The Eagle, which follows the Chindits special operations unit during the Burma campaign. The Chindits are a controversial unit among military historians – they were the largest special ops unit in World War II but had an exceptionally high casualty rate due to a combination of constantly shifting commands, the dangerous terrain, and the nature of their mission. 
The Lion & The Eagle focuses on acting Lieutenant-Colonel Keith Crosby, a straight-shooting but pragmatic officer. Crosby acts mostly as a way to set the scene for readers, explaining what the Indian Army is and why it has British officers, as well as explaining the Chindits’ mission and their operations. Crosby seems numb to the horror of wars—there are a few scenes of utter brutality that he comes across and he mostly carries out the mission unphased—although this could be more due to the rough conditions that his unit faces than any sort of psychological effect from violence or the enemy. He’s also dedicated to the cause – the comic goes to great length to show the barbarity of the Imperial Japanese Army, even showing their inhumane massacres against the Chinese. Crosby sees the Imperial Japanese Army as an evil that needs to be stopped, which helps to explain his willingness to send his men into horrible conditions. However, I appreciated that Ennis and Holden did not attempt to lionize their protagonist in any way – he’s simply one piece in a much, much, bigger puzzle and there’s no inherent “heroism” we see out of him in any way. War isn’t about heroes – it’s about survival, and this comic does a fantastic job of pushing that idea across. 
Much of the discomfort in The Lion & The Eagle comes from the overwhelmingly white perspective of the comic. Crosby is white, but the majority of his soldiers are not. The Chindits are a British army made up mostly of Indian soldiers, fighting a war in an Asian region seized by Britain against other would-be occupiers. And while the Imperial Japanese Army’s crimes are spelled out in the opening pages (complete with several scenes where their inhumane and murderous experiments are played out on panel), the colonizing context for what the British are doing in this region is mostly left out. In fact, the only Indian given any dialogue is the stoic Havildar Singh, who mostly carries out commands from Crosby. It’s a very… strange perspective, although the solicitations for the series seem to indicate that the British occupation of both India and Burma is a central theme to the comic. I feel like Crosby’s demonstrably British perspective only serves as a set-up to a more nuanced look into the geopolitical forces at play here, but this comic felt off without the very necessary non-white perspective of the conflict. 
The Lion & The Eagle is a stern look at a mostly forgotten campaign within World War II. The European front and the American naval campaign in the Pacific are given the most focus from World War II so I appreciated that Ennis and Holden attempt to show the brutality of a different part of the war effort. However, it’s focus on a white character in a decidedly non-white conflict makes the comic seem unremarkable and a bit tone-deaf. It not only provides the least interesting perspective into the Chindit and the Burma campaign, but it also brushes aside the real harm that serves as the backdrop for this story. 
Published by Aftershock Comics
On February 16, 2022
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by PJ Holden
Colors by Matt Milla
Letters by Rob Steen
Cover by Tim Bradstreet
Copyright 2022 All rights reserved.


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