The Iron Ghost #1 Review

Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: Geist Reich

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Penciled by and Inked by: Sergio Cariello
Colored by: Rich Hiltbrunner
Lettered by: Charles Pritchett
Cover by: Flint Henry
Editor: Stephan Nilson
Publisher: Across the Pond > Image Comics

My grandfather was a gunnery sergeant in World War II. He was a member of the United States Army. He fought bravely for his country in France, Belgium, and Germany. He won a Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered in combat. Thank god he made it home from that terrible conflict.

While growing up, I was always enthralled by the stories that my grandfather would tell me of his time in the Army. He always was careful to keep the stories suitable to my age. I can’t tell you how impressive his feats were. I could listen to him talk for hours. World War II was an important turning point for the world, and it is a crowning moment of achievement for the Allied countries. I am so proud of his contribution to that international effort.

My whole life I have enjoyed studying the war in great detail. I have read a number of books on the subject, become a certified teacher in Social Studies, and, generally, a student of history, mainly because of the loving man that was a perfect grandfather, but also a hero that helped bring peace to Europe and the world.

I enjoy films, television shows, and books that deal with the historical aspects of World War II or even ones that tell a fictional story set during the events of WWII. In effect, the mention of WWII will usually be enough to at least make me give a book, movie, or comic a second glance.

When I heard that Chuck Dixon would be writing a title named Iron Ghost set during World War II, my antennae immediately went up. Considering that Iron Ghost is a comic book featuring a gun-toting Shadow-esque character seeking revenge you may not expect it to deal with the truth of history very well. Of course, if that was your preconceived notion, you probably haven’t read much of Chuck Dixon’s work. In the past, Dixon has masterfully woven true historical fact into his fictional stories. Anytime you are reading a period piece written by Mr. Dixon you can be assured that the facts will be well-researched, you will be given a fascinating look at true life, while being told a fantastic, fictional story.

Germany’s rise to power was rapid during the 1930s. Their fall built over a number of years in the 1940s. In the final months there was little hope. Germany faced relentless bombing from the allies. Many saw the end coming, and tried to escape while it was still possible. Many of the atrocities of the war were not known to the general public at the time, but those in power knew when the Allies arrived there would be a lot to answer for. With Iron Ghost Chuck Dixon shows us what it would have been like if a dark avenger stepped out of the shadows to take revenge on the evil power-broking Nazis in those final days.

Dixon flawlessly captures the sweeping tide of doom encroaching on Berlin in 1945. The city is being blasted to rubble and there’s little to do, but go to a bomb shelter when the Allied bombing commences. Dixon shows that some still hold out hope for victory. After all, just a few years earlier the Nazis seemed prepared to conquer all of Europe. The turnabout, and the sheer dismay these people are feeling is brilliantly conveyed by Dixon.

The titular character The Iron Ghost makes three appearances to wipe out Nazis in the first issue. He is left almost entirely as a mystery. Why is he doing what he’s doing? Sure, we know generally, but the real depth of the character is left unexplored. Instead, Dixon introduces a variety of Germans as the character-centric leads of the tale. There’s an arms manufacturer, two police inspectors, and a radio journalist. While there are several darker Nazi characters, most of our leads are simply German people. Sure they are fighting against America, England, and the rest of the Allies, but they are not raving, evil, Nazis.

The Iron Ghost will not lend himself to fantastic characterization until more of his motivation, and origin are unveiled. The tidbits we are given show that there is much behind the mask yet revealed. To make that eventual reveal meaningful, Dixon had to populate his story with believable German people that we would not hate. Sure there are a number of full-fledged Nazi criminals in the story, but there are an equal number of German patriots. There is a major difference in real life and it’s a dicey situation that is often missed in contemporary works featuring Germans during World War II. Chuck Dixon does a wonderful job separating the two.

Sergio Cariello captures the moody atmosphere of the story flawlessly. The last days of the Third Reich were not pretty, and Cariello shows the crumbling world, the pressurized situation, and the near-hopeless existence of the characters with visionary strength. Cariello’s illustrations sucked me into the situation wholly. Sergio Cariello’s passion for the material is evident in the art.

Chuck Dixon and Sergio Cariello are off to a great start here! The Iron Ghost is a thrilling look at the end of the Nazis, and it is one of the best revenge comics ever conceived. I can’t wait to see more!