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‘Soldier Stories’ (review)

Written by Brian Anthony, Jalysa Conway,
Megan Ferrell Burke, Rev. William J. Bellamy

Art by John Bivens, Arturo Lauria, & Kelly Fitzpatrick,
Cecilia Lo Valvo, & Ryan Cody

Published by Image Comics

 

The very first grown-up record I ever bought was Sgt. Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Berets,” an unexpectedly massive hit in otherwise Beatles-crazy 1966.

I was 7.

By the time I was 9, though, I had started paying a lot of attention to the protestors and was against Vietnam. I never personally had family who went but a lot of students in my classes lost older brothers or uncles.

DC’s Sgt. Rock comic books were thinly disguised anti-war comics, and Marvel’s Sgt. Fury was mostly a straight adventure comic with a WWII setting.

Back in the 1950s, the company that would become Marvel had more gung-ho, violent anti-communist pro-war comics while EC Comics had Harvey Kurtzman’s historically accurate but potentially left-leaning ant-war comics. I tended to stay away from all of ‘em. Then, at least.

When I did start reading them, I found quite a few to be very well-written and drawn, if more than a tad repetitive at times.

After all, there were only so many ways you could say, “War is bad…” or “War is GOOD” for that matter.

Soldier Stories, a new book from Top Cow via Image, and in association with the US Veterans Artists Alliance, manages to offer up five fairly original approaches to war comics. Well, the fifth is actually a text piece by the late comics legend, Denny O’Neil.

The rest are all written by military veterans and embrace a wide variety of settings and styles. The cover doesn’t do this book justice. It makes it look like a traditional war comic, which it isn’t.

The Reverend William J. Bellamy writes a personal piece about his work as a photographer; Brian Anthony presents a science-fiction piece; Jalysa Conway offers up a slice of life, up to the minute, family tale; and Megan Ferrell Burke gives us the first story in the book—my personal favorite—another sci-fi tale, illustrated in a unique, computer-aided style by Arturio Lauria.

Two black people, two white—two men, two women. Their respective times in the military, despite different eras, have given each creator a specific perspective that commands attention, and each one of them tells the tale they needed to get out.

While I still have my doubts that a modern war comic, even an anthology like this one, could avoid becoming formulaic, I will admit that Soldier Stories has managed to successfully do so. Every story here in this book offers something new, something personal, and something well done indeed.

Booksteve recommends.

 

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