G.I. Combat #1: Make A Case For The Unknown Soldier

G.I. Combat #1

In the interest of expanding genres, DC admirably included Men of War in their initial launch of the New 52, trying to tell stories focusing on the realities of a soldier's life in the military. Although firmly in the world of superheroes, the ostensible raison d'être (look, French! I'm snooty!) was to branch out from superhero fare. Of course, by the time it was cancelled with issue 8, it was a tale about a wild team-up between a robot and Frankenstein. Ah, the marketplace.

In the interest of keeping a military themed book on the shelves, the replacement title is G.I. Combat, and with it's first issue, it's making a point that it won't be straight and hard-nosed with its war stories. Instead, we've got an anthology featuring two separate tales – one where the army fights dinosaurs and one where a mysterious soldier loses everything, including his face, and becomes a relentless battlefield scourge that might as well be a superhero.

The first half of the book is "The War That Time Forgot" by J.T. Krul and Ariel Olivetti, and it's sadly appropriate that we can understand why time forgot this war – I almost forgot it as soon as I read it. It should be cool, and Olivetti's watercolor-painting style artwork is impressive in rendering a swarm of pterodactyls attacking U.S. choppers investigating a weird blackout zone in North Korea, but there's no real hook here beyond 'dinosaurs vs. tanks.' Although that really should be hook enough, shouldn't it? Maybe I was burned before by Reign of Fire (which was supposed to be 'dragons vs. tanks' and was NOT) and thus am reluctant to invest in this, but I'm sorry to say I wasn't grabbed by it.

However, the second half gives us the origin of The Unknown Soldier, and if there's anybody who can give us good stories about grizzled, angry war veterans, it's All-Star Western writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. Here, they succeed just as well, packing into half a book a good, compelling sorry about… well, an unknown soldier. An American man who lost his family in the 2005 London bombings, who was apparently refused by the military due to his suicide attempt, and who became a private contract soldier, finding himself where he wasn't supposed to be in Afghanistan. In the midst of an ambush, his face was mostly blown off with a bomb, and that was the last straw. In the heat of battle, believing himelf on his way out, he sprung up and killed the attackers in a fit of fury before passing out due to loss of blood. He bandaged his face and pressed on, becoming a legend amongst the soldiers as a quiet, determined and unstoppable warrior. It's compelling, it's got nothing supernatural going on, and it's about the most subtle way you can weave a masked vigilante-style hero into an army setting. The art from Dan Panosian and colorist Rob Schwager is gritty and dark for the most part, but bright where it needs to be, and it serves the story quite well.

So, G.I. Combat #1 is a tale of two tales. One is shrug-worthy, but with potential, and the other is pretty engrossing. It's worth your time.