“G.I. Combat” #1 reminds me of going to see budget movies with my dad at the movie theater in the museum on the grounds of the Toledo Zoo. On weekend afternoons during the winter they would show “two movies for one low price!” Dad, being a thrifty child of parents who found their own during the Depression knew a deal when he saw one and always made the most of even marginal offerings. If there was one movie we wanted to see, surely adding on a second we had no interest in would still be a great deal!
That said, I’ve never been a very big fan of war comics. I read them — heck, I go out of my way to try to like them — but if push comes to shove the budget always relents for something more “spectacular” and imaginative than war comics that deal with subjects I try to escape from by buying comics. Give me tights and capes or swords and sorcery, or even better yet, mystery, suspense and dinosaurs! The latter selection is exactly what J.T. Krul brings to fourteen pages of “G. I. Combat.” During a simple reconnaissance mission, a pair of Airborne soldiers find themselves fighting off a flock of pterodactyls.
Ariel Olivetti’s art is simply beautiful. The video chat conversation that opens the issue is every bit as visually inviting as the swooping pterodactyls attacking helicopters. Olivetti’s painted style occasionally looks like a video that has been paused, giving the figures a flash-frozen appearance, but the stunning detail makes the slight stiffness easily dismissible. Like Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” dinosaurs, the ones Olivetti puts on the page are alive and interactive, very much a threat and even moreso a stunning revelation. Now if only some of the Airborne squad would have actually recognized the pterodactyls as such before they were grounded.
The second half of “G. I. Combat” #1 turns the spotlight onto the Unknown Soldier. It seems as though Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are determined to do for the character what they’ve for Jonah Hex: revitalize the brand. Hex may not be a thriving commercial success, but since Gray and Palmiotti started writing the character, he certainly has received a great deal of critical acclaim.
This chapter introduces the Unknown Soldier and provides enough background for the reader to clearly understand the Soldier’s motivation and find their own level of acceptance and interest in that mission. Part Snake Eyes, part Punisher and part Winter Soldier, the Unknown Soldier is brutal and decisive, fighting for his vision of justice just as Hex does.
Dan Panosian merges the styles of Walter Simonson and Rafael Albuquerque to fill the story of the Unknown Soldier with gritty, hard-edged imagery that matches the subject matter ideally. The artist has a wide range of wartime subject matter to draw and does so with confidence. Panosian’s style is standard issue comic book art, with linework that serves as a nice contrast to the art Olivetti pours onto the pages of “The War That Time Forgot.”
Palmiotti and Gray quickly discard some of the mystery inherent in the Unknown Soldier concept with this first installment, but it doesn’t lessen the effectiveness of the Soldier’s actions. Clearly it isn’t the mystery of the Unknown Soldier we should be focusing on, but rather the results of his actions and the decisions he makes. Like the Punisher, the Unknown Soldier is someone you find yourself cheering for, even if you do not completely support his methods.
“G. I. Combat” is a nice, reinvigorated spin on two of DC’s more intriguing war-related concepts. The two tales are as disparate as can be, but are certain to attract audiences so long as there continues to be dinosaurs on the cover. War comics are a hard sell, but DC has worked hard to make sure this title is empowered to sell hard. The dinosaurs drew me in, but the stories delivered here will be bring me back.