Review: Men of War #1 by Ivan Brandon, Tom Derenick, Jonathan Vankin, & Phil Winslade

Men of War #1

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $3.99

Note: This review is for the digital version of the comic available from DC Comics on Comixology

I actually had no idea there were two stories in this one. That was definitely a nice surprise. 4 bucks is a little bit much for a comic, but I always love getting a little bonus back up story.

Joseph Rock

Written by: Ivan Brandon
Art by: Tom Derenick
Lettering by: Rob Leigh
Colored by: Matt Wilson

Summary (contains spoilers): The first story in this comic starts with Joe Rock right in the middle of combat. He seems to have been injured, and as he tries to get back to his feet, he flashes back to remember how he got here.

We see Colonel Joe Rock being interviewed by a Sergeant Torasi. We find out that Joe’s dad is dead and his mom might as well be. We also find out that he’s got a history of being insubordinate, but his fellow soldiers seem to have a lot of respect for him. Torasi is pretty sure that Rock is smarter than most of the men who go through military school, but because he’s an enlisted man Rock will never rise higher in the ranks than Sergeant.

Rock is recruited as part of a squad to help rescue a Senator who has vanished behind enemy lines. The goal is to move in and out invisible, preferably without firing a single shot. As they parachute in, someone seems to be firing supersonic missiles at the country. Rock quickly realizes that it’s not a missile, it’s a flying man. So much for sneaking in invisibly.

Thanks to some bravery by Torasi, Rock and the squad land safely, and start to try and track the Senator down, with enemy soldiers in hot pursuit. Torasi rushes into a cave and takes out a squad of baddies all by himself. It’s revealed that the flying man is on their side, but Torasi seems to have a major issue with working with a man with superpowers The flying man suddenly seems to be attacked by his own shadow, and ends up knocking down a building.

This brings us back to where the story started. We find out that Torasi was mortally wounded. He gives Rock a field promotion to Sergeant and dies as the issue ends.

Review: I thought the opening monologue from Rock really helped set the scene well. You immediately get a sense of who this character is, and what war does to people. Then they cut right to the flashback scene and we further get his background. Granted, it means the first six pages are really talky, and it takes a while to get into the action.

Throughout the rest of the issue, Torasi pretty much ends up being the hero of the piece…so it was safe to assume he was going to get killed to allow Rock to take a bigger role. And that is exactly what happened.

I did love seeing how the soldiers reacted to the flying man, especially Torasi who was clearly not thrilled to be partnered with a super. And the super’s actions seem to have led to Torasi’s death, which creates a very interesting dynamic.

I know it’s only a first issue, but I didn’t really get a feel for the other characters. There just didn’t seem to be anything distinctive about them. Understand, I am approaching this as a huge fan of Marvel’s G.I. Joe comics, where Larry Hama took great care to make each character distinctive. Considering how many Joes there were, that was not an even feat. Here there were only a handful of characters, and they seemed to just be cannon fodder.

I also didn’t like that we never found out where the action was happening. We don’t know who the enemy are or why they captured the senator other than the fact they are “insurgents.” That just felt like a cop out to me.

The art in the opening story helped show off the action, but I think often it was hard to tell some of the characters apart. In the scene where Rock and Torasi meet, there is a third man in the room, and two or three times I got confused if it was the third man or Rock who was talking. Torasi at least had a distinguishable mustache.

I typically love war comics, but Men of War was my least favorite Relaunch book I have read so far. I will probably give it another issue or two to see how it goes, but this issue didn’t really grab me.

Navy Seals – Human Shields Part 1 of 3

Written by: Jonathan Vankin
Art by: Phil Winslade
Lettering by: Rob Leigh
Colored by: Thomas Chu

Summary (contains spoilers) The backup story is about a team of Navy Seals who has been assigned to secretly infiltrate another unnamed country. Actually, it might be the same unnamed country as the first story, it’s hard to tell. The squad is ambushed by a sniper. One of the men is hit, and they realize that the sniper is trying to get them to bring in an evac chopper so it can be revealed that American Navy Seals are operating in this country.

Two of the Seals go to find the sniper, and they find a scared young woman with a gun. The soldiers are not sure what to do with her, when the real sniper (a turbaned bearded man) emerges from the shadows and opens fire on them. To be continued.

Review: While the first story didn’t really take the time to establish any of the characters, the second story seemed to try a little too hard to do the opposite. Granted, it only had a limited number of pages, but it led to some overpacked lines of dialogue like:

That said, they really did manage to give us some insight into each character, not an easy thing to do in an action-packed back up story.

The action in this story was really good, and it built up the tension well to an ending that was surprising. The art was great, really managing to show off the soldiers and their gear, and helping set the tension perfectly. I am tempted to say that Vankin and Winslade should be the main team on this book, not forced to squeeze their work into the backup story.

Final Score: 7.0 – Generic characters really bogged down the first story, though the Navy Seals backup did do a long way towards redeeming this book. I will probably check out another issue or two, but this book is definitely on the verge of being dropped.

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