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
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?
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.