Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Back to the grind...I mean fun!

Wow, it truly is amazing what a day off can do to a man. I feel great! Still tired but great nonetheless. I lazed around, read a few comic trades and played Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic 2. This was a good day.

Now I can go back and catch up on the month + of comics I missed.

Yesterday I read 3 trades. JSA: The Golden Age, Sgt. Rock’s Combat Tales, and Lions, Tigers and Bears first trade. I didn’t really take notes or anything because I just wanted to enjoy them and not analyze what I was reading for once. Alas, two degrees in English lit won’t let me do that no matter how hard I try. So let’s get back to things shall we?

I’ll begin with the easiest thing here and ask why DC isn’t releasing more digest sized books? This collection of Sgt. Rock stories was an absolute blast. And not just because of all the grenades and bazookas. For me this is the type of book you leave on the back of the toilet for your visits to the “library.” I was really pleased with story telling here but reading them all at once wasn’t the smartest thing on my part. These were single stories that came out monthly and should be read one at a time, not back to back. Reading the collection in one sitting really makes the craft stand out. I started to notice the similar plot devices used like the aforementioned bazookas.

What I liked best about the stories is that they plug you into a different time and place. These were written closer to the actual time of the events so they somehow ring truer than WW2 stories that can’t help but be told through the lens of history. We just can’t see things the same way now, it’s ingrained in us. The fact that the majority of soldiers are basically nameless and constantly changing is something today’s storytellers don’t quite catch onto. Now we’re force fed a group of “characters” that we are forced to identify with in order to have their deaths be more effective. In the end these current stories and deaths feel affected instead of being effective. I guess that the stories in this collection don’t pander, they don’t pretend that one death is more important than another because one character isn’t more important than another – a sense of social cohesion necessary during the war.

It’s only when the characters relate directly to “The Rock” that we learn anything about them, and even then it’s in passing and I forget most of the names now. These are grunts, joes, doughboys. Nameless but necessary. They need heroes as much as we do so they’re given the godlike Rock, the unbreakable Rock while they end up characters in his stories of bravery and death.

On my way to work I finally realized all this. The name of the collection is really fitting. It’s not just stories about war or Sgt. Rock, but stories about war being told in a comic about war. These folk tales are told either by Rock or someone in Easy Company to pass the time or distract the other soldiers for the horrors they are facing. And that’s what they are – folk tales. Mostly because the men were folk before they signed up to fight. Just like folk tales are made up to distract from the difficulty of daily life, these combat tales are told to distract from the horrors of the war. Reading the stories without Rock in them are basically admissions on how unimportant the individuals are. They are gun jockeys, they are sardines, they are regular nobodies who strive to be like The Rock – unbreakable.

And yet the very first story is about The Rock and how he’s a shitty boxer. He’s a terrible fighter. He’s hopelessly average and will never win but he doesn’t give up. That’s basically the spirit that flows through these stories as well as the whole reason for them. The stories exist so the men in them won’t give up. They too may not be the greatest warriors but as long as they don’t give up they win in the end.

I love the artwork. I really truly miss the use of colour to separate foreground and background in panels. It gives a lot of unearthly hues that really suit something like a war comic. I guess I also like reading a story that isn’t full of posing men. The only pose here is the occasional shot of Rock standing up. He looks more heroic by looking completely relaxed. By appearing as a normal man denying the fears and terrors trying to deparately kill everyone around him Rock becomes even more iconic than any spandex clad clod flexing, flying or swinging.

On the really fun side I wonder how easy it would be to go to Germany and fool everyone by playing dead then when they ignore you punch them in the mouth? They never wise up to that in these comics, then blam! Rock or someone in Easy pops them one. Kind of like Batman’s exploding batarang. Will they ever learn?

That’s that. More tomorrow.

No comments: