I love how Kyle Baker reinvents his drawing style for nearly every project he tackles. His “Shadow” looks nothing like his “Truth,” which looks completely different from “Plastic Man” and none of it looks like the bombastically dynamic “Special Forces.” Baker has been using digital means of production for years, long before most of his peers turned to Photoshop embellishments, and while I prefer his hand-drawn, manually inked work from years back, there’s no doubt that he uses digital effects to maximize his storytelling. His work looks like a computer screen in printed form, a glimpse of the future of graphic narrative.
It’s not my favorite style, but I respect his attempts to make “Special Forces” look unlike anything else on the stands.
Issue #4 takes this series — which is an over-the-top lampoon of the American military in the 21st century — and amplifies it to the extreme. Baker’s twin prongs of narrative assault in this comic have been (1) to satirize the recruitment and deployment of the mentally challenged by the military, and (2) to frame that satire within a thrilling, lascivious, gratuitous war action story. This issue focuses far more on the latter than the former. It’s an all-out battle between a scantily-clad Felony (the bad-ass girl with the sassy attitude) and the forces of those-who-hate-freedom. Baker’s use of the phrase “Mission Accomplished” gains hilarious potency in context.
Unlike Rick Veitch’s “Army@Love,” Baker’s “Special Forces” is a thrilling visceral experience. Veitch frames his satire within a complex soap opera of love and betrayal, but Baker isn’t interested in anything close to real human relationships here. This is more in the vein of “Team America: World Police” than it is close to “Catch-22.” It’s a ridiculous cartoon of a war story, and it’s a lot of fun because it embraces that approach fully.
Kyle Baker is a major creative force in the comic book world, even if no other creator dares to follow him on his stylistic adventures. “Special Forces” #4 might be nothing more than a goof on the war in Iraq, but like the best of Harvey Kurtzman’s “Mad,” it reaches its own peculiar heights of greatness.