“The Best of Battle” is an anthology collection of stories from the comic occasionally known as Battle, which existed during the 70s and 80s before merging with Eagle. It contains work from numerous writers, some of whom you’ll recognise (John Wagner! Pat Mills!) and some of whom you won’t (er, pretty much everyone else), with art provided by a similarly diverse bunch.
As a “Best of” collection, the compendium truly lives up to its name, collecting some strips recognisable even to those of us who have never read an issue of Battle (an instalment of Charley’s War, for example, and Darkies’ Mob) – and those that are perhaps less well-known. Each strip numbers around 10-20 pages each and there are 18 in total, so it’s a fairly hefty chunk of comics at a fairly low price of £9.99 RRP. In fairness, the low price is reflected by the low paper quality (it’s not half as heavy as it looks like it’ll be) but given the age of the material, it looks no worse for it and indeed, if anything there’s a certain authenticity to the pulpy stock being used.
Although the stories work well as historical relics, most can still be enjoyed entirely un-ironically today, though there is, rather necessarily, a disclaimer at the start warning about the “views” of certain characters that are not exactly politically correct. As a “Best of” collection rather than a comprehensive chronology, many of the stories are effectively left hanging on cliffhangers, which can make for a frustratingly incomplete read. Certainly, much of this material would struggle to sell alone and is buoyed by inclusion alongside more familiar work, but I can’t deny that the completist in me is a bit miffed to find partial stories. If the intention is to “trail” them for a full release, that’s fine, but if so, it makes the collection little more than a glorified promo.
Nonetheless, those stories that are included remain entertaining. The target audience of nostalgists will no doubt be pleased to see this material back in print, while the more curious among us still have a book worth reading, even if it isn’t perfect.