War comics, once a staple of both DC Comics’ and Marvel’s monthly offerings, are making a comeback as part of DC Comics’ line-wide revamp in September. The Blackhawks return to the skies in their own ongoing series in September, while on the ground a whole new Easy Company prepares for battle. CBR News spoke with writer Ivan Brandon, best known for his creator-owned series “Viking” with Nic Klein, about “Men of War,” his new series introducing a new generation of fighting heroes to the DCU.
“Men of War” stars the grandson of the original Sgt. Rock, DC’s classic World War II hero. Because of the nature of the publisher’s plans for September and beyond, however, Brandon said he was not able to say much about Rock’s legacy in the revised DCU. “Let’s start off on that point: As everyone may’ve noticed we’re being very particular about how new information rolls out, so forgive me in advance if there are some questions or specifics I’m not able yet to answer,” Brandon said.
He was, however, able to provide information about the new hero at the center of his book. “Well, first: he’s not ‘the new Rock.’ He’d be adamant on that point,” Brandon told CBR News. “He’s Joe Rock, he’s an infantryman from Brooklyn, a city boy, in the old sense. He’s well-respected by his peers, a great tactician. He’s military, the way some of the kids down his street came from a family of firemen or a family of cops.”
While his grandfather’s legacy may hang over the title for readers, it may not affect Joe Rock in the same way. “I can tell you he’s more often concerned with how heavily an explosion or a large caliber round might weigh on him or his men,” Brandon said.
As for Easy Company, the band of ex-military soldiers turned contractors, they also may not be the war heroes of old. “They’re a diverse group and they’re all very serious about what they do,” Brandon said. “They’re not action heroes, they’re regular guys who work hard and smart to get the job done.”
While Rock and his men are not operating on behalf of the U.S. military, this does not mean they will be following marching orders for some recent wars’ most notorious private firms. “I want to make clear: he’s not working for Blackwater, literally or figuratively,” the writer said. “These are army men, specifically, and though the behind-the-scenes parameters of their engagement might differ in small ways from enlisted combat, this is a military book, first and foremost. These are not renegade soldiers, set loose to do as they please. This is a team of proud military men.”
The cultural context into which “Men of War” will be introduced is also somewhat different from what it may have been in the early days of “Our Army at War,” classic Rock’s home title. Today, the subject of war itself can be contentious and divisive, but Brandon insists that his series takes no sides. “There is a potential for controversy inherent in any series, but a good soldier isn’t for or against war,” Brandon said. “They’re not politicians. They’ve got a job to do.”
Since the series’ announcement indicates that Rock’s cadre will “brave the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DC Universe’s super-villains,” CBR News asked Brandon if this meant the team’s missions would specifically target said villains. “DC will target me if i answer this question,” Brandon replied with a laugh.
Joining Brandon on the series is veteran artist Tom Derenick, whose recent credits include “JSA” and “Justice League of America/The 99.” “Tom is bringing a level of realism and an eye for detail. He’s bringing a new style to this book, similar to his recent ‘JSA’ work but more nuanced, more subtle,” Brandon said of his collaborator. “He’s really helping me to explore new territory, to establish a book that has a voice unlike the rest of the DCU.”
“Men of War” launches as part of DC’s massive slate of 52 new series for September, some of them continuations of popular series like “Batman,” “Green Lantern” and “Action Comics, but many representing entirely new concepts or significant reinventions of classic characters. With his series fitting into the latter category, CBR News asked Brandon about the role “Men of War” would play in DC’s new publishing plan. “I think the book hopefully opens the door to people outside of comics,” he said. “Our intent is for it to appeal to people who’ve never read a DC comic, or a comic at all… to people who might be embedded somewhere, to people who just enjoy character stories. That’s my major goal: to be accessible to anyone and everyone.”