Something that looks like a female personification of Death appears to be on the cover to this book. This might lead the reader into thinking that there will be a story about survivor’s guilt, or that Rock will narrowly escape death. These ideas and others are definitely present in the story, but the presentation in this book leaves nothing certain.
Ivan Brandon interweaves flashbacks with the present story of Rock and company, which is clear enough. The problem lies in the way events in the present are shown. After a sniper apparently has the squad pinned down, the sniper simply disappears from the story. And if a sniper had found Rock and his men, what is to stop him from radioing in their position to the rest of the insurgents? The squad then takes out all the insurgents without firing a bullet and manages to get themselves extracted off-panel. It is entirely unclear how the rescue and Rock’s adventure with Circe mesh together. One minute Rock is completely off the planet, and the next he is onboard a helicopter without any comment by anybody. The progression of the mission simply does not make any sense.
Then, the last page feels like a tacked-on plot point used to extend the series into the third issue. It feels very awkward because the issue spent all of its time doing two things: building up Rock’s backstory and espousing philosophy on interventionism. This page simply adds on the idea that there is a traitor in the midst of the company. This means little to the reader because we never actually learn anything about Rock’s comrades, including their names.
Tom Derenick simply did not draw any backgrounds for far too many panels. This works fine when Rock and Circe are literally floating in space, but the action scenes needed to be established somewhere within the world of the comic in order to build up any tension. The battlefield on which soldiers fight is just as important as anything else.
And this seems to be Circe’s point, if she really has any. She claims to have neither people nor name, but want the Americans out of the local conflict. The only attachment she has is toward the land. Circe might be serving as a foil to Rock in the sense that while all that she cares about is the land over which she inhabits and possibly rules, Rock fights for the people around him. Or perhaps not. Perhaps Rock is just as self-centered as Circe, fighting because it is the only way he can define himself.
The back-up story is much more focused, simply showing the uncomfortable dynamic of wars fought where the line between combatant and noncombatant is blurry at best. Soldiers of today have to balance not only ensuring their own safety and that of their allies, but also distinguishing between threats and nonthreats. Prioritizing one’s own safety means shooting first and identifying bodies later, but these soldiers play a high-stakes game, trying to get out alive without shooting anyone that needs to be shot. At the same time, this implicitly brings out the ridiculous nature of fighting for peace.
The feature story would benefit from the kind of focused storytelling to be found in the backup. Hopefully the writer has a tighter plan for the story moving forward.
WRITING: 2 / ART: 3 / OVERALL: 2.5