Century's End: The Black Order Brigade & Hunting Party HC
Publisher: Titan Comics
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Price: $34.99
Creator(s): Pierre Christin (author), Enki Bilal (artist)
Format: 184 pgs., Full-Color, Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-7827-6681-0
Age Rating: Mature
ICv2 Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Titan Comics, often known for their Doctor Who comics and other licensed titles as well their recent push into European graphic novels, is the latest publisher to collect the classic collaborations by esteemed artist Enki Bilal and author Pierre Christin: The Black Order Brigade and Hunting Party.

Two separate, but thematically related tales, each has a lengthy publication history.  Originally distributed in France by Dargaud in 1979 as Les Phalanges de l'Ordre Noir, The Black Order Brigade did not receive an English-language edition until Catalan Communications' 1989 The Ranks of the Black Order, translated by Frank Wynne.  Interestingly, this edition also credits Patricia Bilal with interior colors.

In 2000, Humanoids published their English-language hardcover edition translated by Justin Kelly, entitled The Black Order Brigade and later released in a combined paperback with Hunting Party in 2005 under the title The Chaos EffectHunting Party, originally published in French by Dargaud in 1983 as Partie de Chasse, had appeared in English in 1990 from Catalan as The Hunting Party and as a hardcover from Humanoids in 2000.  It is unclear whether Patricia Bilal was credited on the Humanoids editions and nowhere is she mentioned in the Titan version.  Furthermore, the Titan edition has been recolored from the 1989 Catalan version.

Although the translations differ slightly in colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions, the story remains the same.  The Black Order Brigade is a tale of vengeance set against the aftermath of the 1930s Spanish Civil War and the ensuing leftist revolution and right wing counterrevolution spurred by Francisco Franco.  While Franco, who ruled from 1939 until his death in 1975, does not appear in the story, his legacy and that of his Nationalist movement, one tied specifically to the Nationalism of Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany, colors much of Bilal's and Christin's narrative.

The protagonists of The Black Order Brigade are in fact a group of aged revolutionaries, tied to the socialist left, who spurred Franco.  Reunited by a resurgence of violence targeting contemporary leftists, this international group includes a journalist, union leader, political leader, judge, a Mossad agent, an engineer, an author, a university professor, and a Catholic priest.

Despite being united by a common cause to push back against the fascism of the Brigade, these old warriors soon realize the fallout of their youthful idealism spawned by the war against Franco.  The Black Order Brigade is a fascinatingly paced tale of intrigue and espionage that crosses the continent, as well as one of historical memory.  While the heroes may fondly remember their past exploits, the harsh realities of age and shifting political landscapes are constant impediments as they learn the brutal futility of revenge.

In fact, historical memory directs Hunting Party as well and it’s a much stronger exploration of how political forces, propaganda, and competing ideologies shape historical narrative.  Focusing on two translators for a high ranking Communist Party official, Hunting Party brilliantly examines how Soviet history from the Revolution through the stagnation of Brezhnev was shaped by these powerful party leaders.  Although some readers may find the expanding cast of characters difficult to keep straight at times, Hunting Party proves to be a very personal and potent story for Christin and Bilal.  The result is an engaging, original story that should resonate with audiences interested in the evolving process of history and how it is shaped.

This Titan edition also includes an interview with Bilal and Christin about their partnership, collaborations, and the impetus driving both Black Order Brigade and Hunting Party.  Titan deserves commendation too for this updated modern translation that reads even better than the 1989 Catalan version.  A great addition to their emerging catalog of English-language editions of European albums, Century's End is hopefully the beginning of even more classic and contemporary bandes dessinees from Titan Comics.

--Nathan Wilson