Thursday, 8 November 2007

Special Forces #1

You know, as much as I love mutants and genetically altered musclemen, sometimes it's nice to read a spandex free comic.

With a dearth of decent titles on offer last week I picked up a couple of random new non-superpowered books, the best of which was Special Forces #1 by Kyle Baker.

Based on the true story of an autistic man who was recruited to fight in the Iraq war, this is an action packed tale which draws on influences as varied as M*A*S*H and EC's legendary war comic Two Fisted Tales to tell a grim story about a war which has received scant attention elsewhere in the comics world.

Narrated by Felon, a 21st century Hotlips Houlihan with classic comic book cheesecake looks, Special Forces parachutes the reader right into the middle of the Iraqi warzone. It's a tough book focusing on one day in the life of an unlikely band of degenerates and misfits hastily enlisted by a desperate US military.

They're more like the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest than the Dirty Dozen and, with the exception of Felon, none of them are fit to fight. While it might stretch the imagination to believe that such a rag tag crew could really end up in Iraq, Baker provides a couple of clippings in the back of the book which suggest that the US military are actually desperate enough to enlist anyone.

Whether you believe in them or not, the characters are easy to sympathise with, which makes it all the more disturbing that most of them don't make it out of issue #1 alive. These soldiers don't die easy deaths either, they shit their pants in fear before being blown up by IEDs. This is a particularly bloody war, and Baker wants us to know it.

His art is superb, I've already made the comparison to the classic work on Two Fisted Tales, but there's also more than a hint of MAD magazine legend Mort Drucker about the book. I kept thinking about this cover as I read Special Forces...

It's a great comic. Perhaps I was a little uncomfortable with some of the cheesecake in the panels where Felon's butt is juxtaposed against a recently decapitated soldier. But she's a strong enough character for me to put any reservations to one side - besides I'm sure Baker is making some clever point about sex and violence that I'm just not savvy enough to get!

Overall I'd give Special Forces a 9 out of 10. From the pencils to the lettering, everything about it looks different. It feels relevant in a way that a lot of comics don't at the moment. I look forward to issue #2 with real anticipation. If you get the chance, check it out.

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