Monday, October 13, 2008

Army@Love: The Art of War #3

It's about time someone turned the brutal eye of satire onto America's current overseas expeditions, and with Army@Love, comics legend Rick Veitch has done just that. While his renditions of the mainstream media, the mental and physical state of our troops and the non-stop corporate sponsorships that fill our collective subconscious may initially seem cartoony and exaggerated, deeper inspection reveals that in reality they're startlingly close to the truth. I suppose there'd be no place for lampoons without an outrageous, frightening reality to provide nourishment.

Not to say this is an entirely accurate mirror of the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veitch provides plenty of original material, both to keep his readers engaged and to ensure the storyline keeps moving without spiraling off into an endless loop of poking and prodding at the shortcomings of America's current foreign policy. Though he's certainly provided sufficient material to do just that.

Army@Love's cast is constantly distracted by their interests off the battlefield. While the troops on the ground are more interested in getting their rocks off than completing their initiatives, their superior is too fascinated by a lock of Frank Sinatra's hair to take notice. Nobody has an interest in actually doing what they were sent there for, and with money from taxpayers and corporate sponsors continuing to pour in, who can blame them?

Concept is never an area where Veitch has struggled in the past. The man's ideas have always been astonishingly original and divinely rich - his imagination is unrivaled and it's always a pleasure to absorb another of his mind dumps. The trouble I've always had with his work is with actually sitting down and getting through it. Rare Bit Fiends is some of my all-time favorite material, but it's not something I can sit down and read over and over again. His run on Swamp Thing is legendary, with good reason, but it too is far from an easy read. Same story with Army@Love, this month in particular. We're following so many different faces, crossing so many lines of communication, that I'd need a encyclopedia-sized guidebook to find my way from cover to cover. It's a great adventure, but the constant leaps between different narratives are dizzying.

New readers beware: unless you've been keeping up from the beginning this book will lose you within five pages. Longtime followers of Rick Veitch's other work will probably fare a bit better, but even they might want to give some thought to starting with the first issue of the series. If you can get into it this is downright brilliant, something that's badly needed with the current state of affairs in America. But that's one big "if." Borrow this and see if you can get through it. It's supremely rewarding if you can.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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