Men of Wars fights a new war

DC had a strong history with war books. Starting in the late 1950s through to the end of the 1980s, DC always had at least one book based on WWII on the stands. These books debut and focused on characters such as the Haunted Tank, the Unknown Soldier and Enemy Ace, and most importantly perhaps the one character who become synonymous with the WWII genre, Sgt. Rock.  Until I saw Band of Brothers, I thought Easy Company was a purely fictional band of soldiers. That fact alone should tell you how often I seek out war stories.

Since the last days of Sgt. Rock, war comics have become a specialty book. The big two in the past twenty years has published less than a handful of such books, and this is only because a few creators are committed to keeping the genre alive. Garth Ennis, Joe Kubert and a few others have spearheaded the most notable war books in the past twenty years. The majority of these books used WWII as their main focus; a few stories have been set in Vietnam.

While there has been wars since, its perhaps that these eras have been focused on due to how we have romanticized these battles, and that they offer a clear right (the Allies) and wrong (the Nazis). I’ve taken the long way to make this point, but with the changing face of war, there just hasn’t been a place for ‘current’ war comics. The new Men of War comic by DC tries to give us a contemporary war comic, and also pay homage to its past.  To do this, they tie the main character directly to the famous Sgt. Rock.

The new Rock isn’t a sergeant…  yet. It is explained clearly at that start that Joseph Rock doesn’t want to have the role. He wants to be like his Nazi busting grandpa—on the front line with his men, protecting each other’s back and making a real difference, not pushing papers. This whole scene was probably my least favorite as it felt like something that would have been in Top Gun, or some television cop show.  Joseph is Maverick, living in the shadow of a military family.

Next to this introduction scene, the writing of the book is smooth—it flows quickly and this not a bad thing. You feel like you are in the room, on the plane, or on the front with the soldiers. This book is very much like the a Modern Warfare video game come to life, and that is exactly how a modern war comic should be written; not necessarily set in a real war, but referencing real world gear, weapons and technology. The stakes are real, people die, and it’s clear not everyone will come home at the end of every mission. This story is in one word is intense.

The art by Tom Derenick reminded me a lot of Neal Adams in terms of layout. Angled panels to create a sense of movement, and a lot of wide panels to make you feel the wide screen action that is being portrayed.  I really can’t say enough about how much I liked the lay out of this book. It’s smartly done and perfectly helps create the emotion that the writer Ivan Brandon is trying to invoke.

The one element of this world that didn’t sit well with me was that the story is clearly taking place in one where men can fly. The main threat of this book is not an opposing army of bad asses, but instead a man who can fly and cause massive destruction. I was really hoping for this book to be more closely aligned with the ‘real world’ and focus on a man versus man conflict. Have a book called Men of Ware give us some old-school-super-action-Commando-like-thriller material, but instead it looks like we will ultimately be seeing a series more about man versus superman. It does make sense to see super powered threats in this book—it would be impossible to imagine some war on a world where men can leap tall buildings in a single bound to be devoid of any metahuman involvement. The fact that this book will not be pure war may turn of a lot of the people expecting a more traditionally minded war book.

Men of War also featured the first part of a three part backup feature, focusing on a group of navy seals. Its not clear if this story will be set in the DCU proper, or instead just be a good war comic. The story by Jonathan Vankin is in a modern setting, focusing on more current US military zones (Middle East, or Afghanistan). The dialogue, like the mean story uses plenty of exposition and military terminology to help compliment the realism that the artist Phil Windslade beautifully details, and full of exposition. This story is what I was expecting from the main feature, a war comic set in the year 2011.  If the book continues to have back ups of this quality, than at DC will be successfully creating a book for both the video game war buffs, and the real world war buffs.

So who should pick this up? If you like the current crop of war video games, this is worth a read. If you like traditional war comics, at least you’ll get something out of the back up. I do think the book is worth a look, but I’d place it firmly in the middle of the pack of the new 52. I am glad DC tried to do something different here, and I going to read the next two issues because I want to get a better idea of what this comic will be and see if it lives up to the potential that this issue showed.

This article was originally written for geekscape.

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