“Sledgehammer 44” #1 from Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Jason Latour is one fantastic and absurd war comic. In fact, it’s the best war comic I’ve read in quite some time. The issue focuses on the high concept of Mike Mignola’s version of Iron Man set in WWII, but in actuality it’s a warped WWII tale originally intended for John Severin, which still holds onto the high plains aspect of that conflict’s visual image. When a walking man who has become a weapon is dropped into Nazi occupied France, things get heated quickly and everything spirals down.
As a war comic, the tone of “Sledgehammer 44” #1 is spot on while still incorporating the strange nature of the metal suited weapon who falls from a plane encased in what looks like a bomb shell with the word “Sledgehammer” written on it. The major reason this can all tie together is the sublime work of Jason Latour. His character designs and page layouts are so simply presented and yet evoke such real emotion. The simple faces with the pointy noses take me back to many war comics from my youth.
Latour’s faces might be uncomplicated but he fills the rest of his pages with real aspects of war at that time. Detailed background showcase debris and a broken country. The action flows whether it’s gunfire or strange electrical powers from Sledgehammer. Half of this issue is one large battle on the streets of France and it’s a brutal and kinetic affair. The rest of the issue slows down to offer more character moments and build to a tidy little climax so there is desire to see the other half of this two issue short.
The narrative from Mike Mignola and John Arcudi is straightforward and pleasant on many levels. They don’t waste time settling into the story, they simple present a man that falls from the sky straight into battle. It’s a phenomenon experienced similarly by the ground troops, cleverly putting the reader on the same level. The iron man is a very weird element in this issue but it’s all presented as being so up front that readers have no choice but to believe in it and allow it to run its course.
“Sledgehammer 44” #1 is interesting as a Mignola take on Iron Man but it is miles better than just a war comic with a twist. This is an authentic document in comic form, the sort of thing we aren’t graced with enough anymore. This book is an adventure and a committed tale that fans of the genre are going to love. Dark Horse consistently publishes niche genre fare superb in quality and consistently worth the time and money of the growing audience it achieves. It’s a joy to add “Sledgehammer 44” #1 to that list.