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America’s Army #4 Review: A Realistic G.I. Joe (guest post by Stephen Joseph)

The recent WordPress change made it appear this article was written by me, Nicole D’Andria, and not Stephen Joseph. I am trying to currently change the author name and in the meantime am crediting Stephen in the title and here. Sorry for the inconvenience. Again, this was written by Stephen Joseph, NOT ME.

The Army has always had subtle ways of recruitment since the draft ended in 1972, finding ways to portray military life as exciting and filled with male testosterone gunfights. Hey, it’s being done in movies. Look at films like Rambo, Behind Enemy Lines, and The Expendables. So, why not comics, too?

I know, I know, they already have G.I. Joe, but that’s more about science fiction enemies and laser beams and weapons and technology beyond our grasp. Not the case with America’s Army, a comic centered around U.S. soldiers deployed to a made-up region called Czervenia, where they must face off against a deadly force known as the Red Coin. Escalation is the fourth chapter in the series, and the first comic book of the series I read.

America's Army #4 panel 1
Even without reading the prior issues, you quickly get a gist of the plot and backstory. That’s because it’s still about the same soldiers fighting as humanitarians against the same insurgent bad guys. They start with a full-page worm shot of Army personnel jogging toward us at a training camp in this imaginary country, which comes off more like a recruitment poster than a first impression. But, hey, as I said, this is more about a recruitment drive than nitty-gritty comic book innovation.

The author of the comic book, M. Zachary Sherman, classifies this as the most realistic comic book about the Army in history. I beg to differ. Especially when page after page characters faced with tense opposition and assaults respond with dutiful and virtuous reactions. For example, a soldier faces an inquest into a shooting after a local is wounded. He reacts with unadulterated outbursts. No profanity, no insolence, no mockery that has been a part of our military’s linguistic M.O. since its formation. If there is one thing I know about our military and that is there is no tolerance for squeaky-clean rhetoric. Okay, I know this is not Generation Kill and they are targeting the comic toward children, but the characters are not even remotely authentic and more two-dimensional than a robot in a Roger Corman sci-fi film.

America's Army #4 panel 2
Yes, it’s that bad.

What I did find authentic, however, was artist Scott Brooks’s attention to detail when it came to rendering the military vehicles, uniforms and weapons. I had never heard of Scott Brooks before and tried to Google his prior handiwork in the comic book industry, but no dice. Nevertheless, he makes a majestic impression with his pencils for this series. His use of composition, lighting, space and panel-to-panel storytelling gives the comic book its true sense of realism.

I cannot speak for other comic readers out there, but, as for me, when I come across impressive artwork, I have to indulge myself. Artists who use all the right equipment to sketch two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensional illustrations have me sold. But maybe most readers aren’t looking for the same things I am. Moreover, maybe they’re not looking for an Army tackling morality and warfare with humdrum technicalities neither.

America's Army #4 panel 3
Well, there is an upside to America’s Army: it’s free.

Rating
6.0

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