Men of War #1 presents the adventures of Sergeant Rock’s grandson, Corporal Rock in an unnamed, but familiar war zone. Stuff blows up. And ooo, Navy SEALs.

MEN OF WAR #1
Writer: Ivan Brandon
Artist: Tom Derenick
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Viktor Kalvachev
Assistant Editor: Kate Stewart
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

Previously, in the old DCU: Frank Rock was a man’s man and a soldier’s soldier in WW2. At some point, he had some kids and they had kids and one of them joined the army and his name is Corporal mumble mumble Rock and he FIGHTS WARS.

SOMEWHERE, STUFF BLOWS UP

Men of War #1 is exactly what it says on the tin, and pretty much what you’d expect in a story about a descendent of Sgt. Rock fighting in today’s modern army. There are angry, lantern-jawed soldiers yelling at each other, people jumping out of airplanes, bazookas, sawed-off shotguns and a whole bunch of fireballs. Intriguingly, there is also a crimson super-powered streak blasting through the battlefield.

The issue introduces Rock in the middle of a very strange interrogation in which he is alternately upbraided and soothed by two higher-ups. It is pointed out that Corporal Rock has repeatedly resisted promotion to the rank of sergeant, that he is very smart, insubordinate to bad orders, and well-respected by the rank and file. The setup is a bit stock, frankly. Rock even has the prerequisite badass scar and All-American steel-blue eyes. What he doesn’t have is a first name, but that’s unnecessary in this man’s army. Rock then gets roped into an unnamed unit whose mission is to jump into an unnamed combat zone to rescue a named US senator.

Ivan Brandon chooses to focus on the combat at the loss of any sort of context, but the action moves along at a crisp enough pace that it doesn’t really matter. Brandon provides plenty of combat badassery that is exciting enough. Rock is still a cipher at this point, but next issue promises to provide some background. Hopefully, we’ll also get introduced to someone other than Sgt. Tomasi, as there’s really no cast to speak of in this issue. The appearance of super-powered elements on the battlefield was surprising, and provided something unique to the proceedings. I welcome the editorial decision to include explanatory boxes for the various bits of military slang strewn throughout; it reminds me of Larry Hama’s little asides in old GI Joe issues.

I MISS WILDMAN’S BEARD

Tom Derenick’s art is nicely, if sometimes simplistically, detailed and provides the grit the subject matter requires. Derenick is also ace with the layouts, using angles and space to underscore the chaos of combat. His best work is on the characters’ faces, which is important, since there’s really no other way to distinguish everyone from each other. The feathers and .50 caliber bullet belts and such may have been unrealistic in the old Sgt. Rock stories, but they provided character signifiers that allowed easy identification in battle scenes. I’d like it a bit better if they did something similar. It’s not as gritty and realistic to do it, yeah… but there are guys flying around in this one, so it’s okay.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE

There’s also a backup strip about some Navy SEALs doing their thing written by Jonathan Vankin and written by Phil Winslade. The dialogue is noticeably clunky at times, and every character looks the same, but it’s a good enough story. There aren’t a lot of war comics around these days, so I applaud Men of War for expanding its scope and hope it continues to tell more stories in the future. Dare I hope for a Haunted Tank comeback?

ROCK SOLID

Men of War #1 is unapologetically straight forward and apolitical, and doesn’t break any new ground. People die, property is damaged and while gritty, it is not terribly realistic. It has a lot more in common with The Green Berets than Platoon, so if you’re looking for an action-filled war comic with a minimum of hand-wringing, this is for you. Brandon and Derenick do action and explosions right, and while it remains to be seen whether this Rock can equal his predecessor, he’s off on the right foot.

Rating: ★★★½☆

 

The Author

George Chimples

George Chimples

George Chimples comes from the far future, where comics are outlawed and only outlaws read comics. In an effort to prevent that horrible dystopia from ever coming into being, he has bravely traveled to the past in an attempt to change the future by ensuring that comics are good. Please do not talk to him about grandfather paradoxes. He likes his comics to be witty, trashy fun with slightly less pulp than a freshly squeezed glass of OJ. George’s favorite comic writers are Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, while his preferred artists are Guy Davis and Chris Bachalo, He loves superheroes, but also enjoys horror, science fiction, and war comics. You can follow him @TheChimples on Twitter for his ramblings regarding comics, Cleveland sports, and nonsense.

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10 Comments

  1. Jimmy
    September 10, 2011 at 11:43 am — Reply

    I was impressed with the main story (especially the coloring), but I really really didn’t care for the back-up. It just wasn’t an enjoyable read in any way shape or form to me.

  2. September 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm — Reply

    I think Men of War was a breath of fresh air. Reading something from a normal-soldier’s perspective instead of a super-soldier kept me intrigued. He looked all bad-ass but when it came down to the battle, he was just average which was okay. He was vunerable but he also respected those fighting around him, espectially his sergeant. I didn’t expect supers to be involved so that was a surprise. I’m looking forward to the 2nd issue. Oh and also, loved that mini-story at the end. It was different enough from Men of War to stand on its own.

  3. September 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm — Reply

    Did not get much from this book at all. Considering it was priced at 4 bucks, and Ivan Brandon as writer, I expected more. The drama was forced & the inclusion of superheroes (or villains) did not work. I’d give this a very low 3 out of 5.

    • Jimmy
      September 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm — Reply

      I actually liked how the superhero was thrown in as a force of nature; it seemed fitting given the human nature of the story.

    • Damascus
      September 14, 2011 at 4:22 am — Reply

      I liked the superhero angle. I don’t want it to always be able Sgt. Rock dealing with supers, but it’s nice to see the every day badass style soldier having to deal with a world where walking talking WMD’s are a reality.

  4. brenton8090
    September 11, 2011 at 8:47 am — Reply

    It’s some needed variety for the DCU. I like the magazine format, and hope they expand that to some other titles. The lack of context didn’t bother so much as if they had them in “Khandaq” or other fictional place. It’s hard to balance real-world soldiering with the over-the-top tights of the DCU, but I think they pulled it off nicely. Hopefully this book grows into it’s own instead of fading away into cliche. I’ll buy it on an issue-by-issue basis.

  5. Jayster5
    September 13, 2011 at 4:46 am — Reply

    Sure, the main character has a first name – it’s Joseph! It only happens to be the TITLE of the story itself! I admit, it appears on the final page of the story, but you really shouldn’t overlook that! I mean, you pulled the credits from the same page! ;)

    • Damascus
      September 14, 2011 at 4:23 am — Reply

      Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. But for once I read through the credits and didn’t leave a redundant comment like normal. lol. But yeah, I saw the Joseph Rock thing at the end too.

      • Damascus
        September 14, 2011 at 4:23 am — Reply

        Sgt. [G.I.] Joe Rock

        • September 16, 2011 at 5:25 pm — Reply

          Right you are, and shame on me!

          But I did think it was weird they assiduously went out of their way to mention his name in dialogue. I can get it if he doesn’t want to be Corporal Rock due to grandpa comparisons, but why not “Call me Joe” rather than “Call me ALPHA 31G” or whatever it was in the text.

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