Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion, by Billy Tucci (writer/artist) is one of the most respectful comic books you will ever read, so it makes perfect sense for the book to be released just in time for Veteran's Day next Tuesday. Tucci decided to set a Sgt. Rock tale in the midst of a real war story about the 141st U.S. Texas regiment (a regiment which descends back to the troops at the Alamo), a battalion stuck on a mission behind enemy lines, with their support at the hands of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was made up entirely of Japanese-Americans.
It's a stirring true-life tale, and Tucci gives the introduction to the story all the respect you can imagine. He even traveled to France to see where the battle took place and tried to meet as many survivors from the story as he could.
Not only does he hold reverence for these real-life war heroes, but he clearly holds the same respect for the fictional war heroes of Sgt. Rock and Easy Company.
Toss in a Joe Kubert tribute, a bit of a Bill Maudlin tribute and an Audie Murphy cameo, this book is a delight for people who like to see the people of the "Greatest Generation" paid their due.
However, in the midst of all that reverence, was the comic itself good?
Billy Tucci is mostly known as an artist, and really, the highlights of the book are mostly on the art side of the ledger, as Tucci occasionally draws some remarkable pages.
He opens the book with a Kubert tribute...
Before launching into perhaps his best piece of art in the entire book, a depiction of the Normany Invasion...
You gotta admire a guy who can depict the horrors of the invasion while staying basically PG (and the book is not even Comic Code Approved, but I think Tucci is looking to spread the story of the men in this comic to as large of an audience as he can).
That said, a common problem I've had with Tucci's work comes up fairly often in this issue, too, and that's the computer effect that his artwork has, where his characters' faces often come off looking a bit too much like the Greg Horn/Greg Land school of "an actual picture of a human head placed into an otherwise drawn panel." The problem here is that the face does not always match the panel in which it appears (which is a typical Land problem), and this is especially a problem in this comic, where Tucci has decided to make an inordinate amount of panels basically just close-ups on various character's faces.
Then again - IS it an inordinate amount, or am I noticing it more because the effect irks me?
Nah, I think Tucci honestly used an inordinate lot of panels with close-ups on people's heads.
Anyhow, that is a major annoyance I had with the artwork, but for the most part, the artwork is strong, and occasionally, Tucci will have an incredible page, like the invasion page I showed you earlier.
The story is built around a cartoonist (doing his best Maudlin impression) who features Sgt. Rock for a military magazine, and is then caught up in the story of the Lost Battalion. Through this cartoonist/journalist, Tucci is able to get out a LOT of exposition, as that is what this first issue mostly is - exposition for the battles of the later issues. It is a good device by Tucci, allowing a ton of info-dumping to go on without the reader being too taken out of the story.
The end effect of it all, though, is a fairly mundane story which mostly serves to set up the later issues.
So if you were someone who likes to see the "Greatest Generation" be given a heartfelt tribute, this comic is great for that purposes - Tucci is really into honoring these guys.
But if you're just looking for a good comic book, I think this issue falls a bit short - although the future issues sound like they're going to be a blast (the Haunted Tank is supposed to guest-star! Woohoo!).
Slightly Not Recommended.