Archive for Special Forces

War Pigs


Special Forces #2

Felony, our underdressed war hero on the cover, is in waaaay over her head. Zone, the autistic soldier, keeps getting himself in more and more trouble because he thinks he has to complete his mission, no matter what. So off he goes, one eye on the toy soldier he’s obsessed with, the other on the list detailing his orders, blundering into the gunsights of way too many enemy insurgents. So in trying to defend both Zone and herself, Felony wastes an absolutely incredible number of insurgents, blows up a car bomb while it’s trying to run her over, gets in a fistfight with a terrorist, and dodges numerous bullets and rockets.

Verdict: Thumbs up. There’s an insane amount of action in this story. This issue isn’t as political as the last one was — who has time for politics when you’re riding on the hood of a car bomb, right? But it’s still a fantastic story so far, and Felony is definitely developing into the toughest soldier in a war comic since Sgt. Rock…

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Between Iraq and a Hard Place


Special Forces #1

Kyle Baker must have one of the more varied resumes of any cartoonist out there, except for maybe Jack Cole. Baker does Warner Brothers-esque animation cartooning like “Plastic Man,” he does dead-serious superhero fare like “Truth: Red, White and Black,” and he does everything in between. And the guy’s got serious interests in politics, race, and social justice — hence the aforementioned “Red, White and Black,” hence “Birth of a Nation” with Aaron McGruder and Reginald Hudlin, hence his series on Nat Turner, leader of one of the most significant slave rebellions of the old South.

And then there’s this comic, which takes as one of its inspirations an incident in which an autistic teenager was recruited by the Army and then released from his enlistment contract when the scandal went public. So our story is about a recruitment officer who’s given an ultimatum — make his recruitment quota, or he ships out to Iraq. Desperate, he signs up a bunch of completely unfit losers but just barely misses quota, so he is assigned command of the soldiers he recruited. And as you’d expect, complete disaster ensues. Our two main characters here are Felony, a juvenile delinquent whose torn mini-T and short-shorts don’t seem to be standard military issue, and Zone, an autistic soldier who, despite his other difficulties, is the perfect soldier.

The cover makes this look like it’s a comedy, but it isn’t. Holy cow, is this ever one non-funny comic book. The first page features a closeup of a guy’s head exploding. And it doesn’t get any cleaner from there. The comic is jam-packed with blood, guts, death, cussing — and not fun stuff, not a bit of it. This isn’t some “War is All Glory, Salute for Uncle Sam” action movie — this is violent, chaotic, terrifying, depressing stuff. And the characters really do draw you into the action — these guys aren’t Sgt. Rock or Nick Fury or recruiting-poster supermen — they’re schlubs, like you and me and 90% of the civilian populace. Seeing action heroes get blown up by RPGs wouldn’t be as affecting as seeing truly ordinary people get dusted. ‘Cause that could be you or me. And the real soldiers, with the actual training, are going through this every single day over there.

Artistically, this is pretty great stuff. I quibble with the way Felony is depicted — she’s got eyes like dinner plates and cheekbones you could land a jet on — but man alive, can Baker ever draw action. The chopper crash is one of the most exciting and cinematic pieces of artwork I’ve ever seen, and the first and last pages really do pack a big punch.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is harrowing stuff, but it’s really masterful storytelling.

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