Three issues in, I find myself slightly unsure who the target audience of “Men at War” is supposed to be. It’s great that, at a glance, DC is publishing a war comic, right? They’ve got a long tradition of comics back in the day that fit that bill, and following in those footsteps is a good idea.
Except, of course, “Men of War” is set firmly in the present day of the DC Universe. So we’ve got a war comic with superpowers showing up at random moments, and the end result is much weaker than what I feel we could have gotten. Ivan Brandon tries to make it work in the main feature, using these extra abilities more as new technological weapons being unleashed than the occasional superhero, but it still doesn’t 100% click. And while the first two issues at least integrated those powers into the narrative much better, here it seems to quite literally show up out of nowhere. It feels like such a non-sequitur that it in some ways comes across as being tacked on, save that it is a major part of the cliffhanger for the issue. But here, at least, it doesn’t quite work.
Also not quite as strong is the characterization; Joseph Rock got a lot of focus in the first two issues, but this third issue feels like it could have been anyone in that central role. It’s still better than what we’re getting in the backup story, where after three issues is still 100% generic courtesy Jonathan Vankin, but that’s not much of a big step up in that category.
Tom Denerick’s art is good again, although I was a little disappointed to see the muted palette not as much in use over his pencils this month. I’d liked the washed out, faded look of those two issues (save for some spot colors like Rock’s bright blue eyes, or Circe’s gleaming outfit) but here we’ve got a lot more color, and it makes Denerick’s art come across a bit garish in places. Overall, though, he’s still got a strong sense of anatomy and storytelling, and this month he’s by far the strongest creator on the comic. Phil Winslade’s art isn’t bad, but it’s a bit flat in spots, and curiously lacking in energy for a war comic. We’ve seen better from him in the past, although with such an uninspired script I can see why we might not get something punchier from his pencil.
“Men of War” #3 is a bit of a letdown. I’m glad the lackluster back-up from Vankin and Winslade is over, and hopefully we’ll get something a bit stronger in its place starting next month. But even the main feature feels like it’s losing some focus, and this early in the series that’s not a good thing. As one of only four titles at the $3.99 price point, “Man of War” needs to pick up the intensity next month before people start walking away for something stronger and cheaper.