Riding the latest wave of new titles from DC, “Star-Spangled War Stories” #1 introduces readers to G.I. Zombie in a story written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art from Scott Hampton. Despite Darwyn Cooke’s magnificent cover, the war story here is not set on the stage of battlefields from a world war, but rather waged closer to home in a battle against terrorism.
Out of the gate, Palmiotti and Gray waste no time and pull no punches, giving readers a raw story filled with the dingier side of life. The writing duo uses Tiff as the point of view character to set the story up, as she wanders into a bar in Nowhere, Mississippi. Noticeably not the usual clientele of the establishment, Tiff draws the attention of the regulars, just as an FBI agent is discovered snooping around. The writing duo makes it quite clear that this is an unwelcome visit and the end result, as well as its pathway, is filled with violent deeds and harsh language.
The story itself unfolds for the readers the deeper they wade into the marshy tale contained in “Star Spangled War Stories.” In addition to Tiff, readers are introduced to a number of the bar regulars who provide dramatic edge and comedic value. Palmiotti and Gray are doing what they usually do here: making a solid, captivating story with believable characters and setting up their artist for a true collaboration.
Scott Hampton works within the marshy Mississippi setting and colors his own drawings, giving “Star-Spangled War Stories” #1 a dingy, worn-down look that echoes reality and exudes hints of photographic reference and construction through the settings of motel and gas station, rural woods and seedy bar. At his best with characters that are stationary, Hampton does a solid job establishing the looks for Tiff, Duke, “Zombie” and the rest of the cast that flows through this comic book.
Reminiscent of Palmiotti and Gray’s collaboration with Phil Winslade on “Monolith,” “Star-Spangled War Stories” #1 is a strong successor of that lineage. Another creation attributed directly to Palmiotti and Gray, G. I. Zombie isn’t as recognizable as their most recent subject of Jonah Hex, or even Batwing, but it is hitting the collective pop culture consciousness at the right time to make an impression. As unapologetic as their work on “Jonah Hex” and “All-Star Western,” this series puts its best foot forward, giving readers a new world to explore with the creators and characters.