Dinosaurs fighting Army men? Shut up and take my money!
G.I. Combat lands in shops this week as part of DC’s second wave of New 52 titles, and it makes for a most welcome addition to the lineup. A reimagining of the long-running anthology of war stories, often with dark or supernatural twists, G.I. Combat delivers the goods. The debut issue features two 14-page tales–both of which are fun, modern reads with throwback trappings that soundly justify the $3.99 cover price.
Issue one begins with the first chapter of “The War That Time Forgot” from writer J.T. Krul and artist Ariel Olivetti. Krul gives readers a couple Special Forces characters to care about right on the first page and has the story throttled up to full-on dinosaur combat by page four. The economy of storytelling makes for a snappy, exciting read that never bogs down or wastes time with indulgent exposition. This is G.I. Combat, after all, and “The War That Time Forgot” gives readers that much and more.
Olivetti’s digitally colored art is has a slightly otherworldly sheen to it and is a great fit for the story. This ain’t your granddad’s G.I. Combat–slick, stylized army weapons and vehicles look very much computer generated. I don’t think I’d want every comic on the rack to carry Olivetti’s digital production, but in this story it works more than fine. In fact, it looks pretty stellar. The art really shines, however, when the digital elements are not the focus. Olivetti’s fightin’ men and prehistoric beasts are the visual stars here, and CGI renderings aside, the artwork of “The War That Time Forgot” tickles your eyeballs like a comic book should.
The second half of the book presents the story of “The Unknown Soldier” by Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Dan Panosian. Unknown Soldier was a semi-regular featured player in the original run of G.I. Combat, eventually spinning off into his own solo book and treated to a couple Vertigo miniseries in recent years. Here, Grey and Palmiotti reposition the character for the 21st century. The soldier we meet is a hardened product of the Afghanistan War. The story is full of pulpy war action, with scrambling Taliban fighters taking the place of Joe Kubert Nazis as cannon fodder. Our soldier is a driven, morally ambiguous badass cut from the same cloth as Frank Castle, Jonah Hex, and Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name.
The story is propelled along not by the inner dialogue of our Unknown Soldier, but rather by a rank and file grunt. This is a nice tip of the hat to the storytelling style of the old G.I. Combat, and also helps to build up the title character into not just a mere nut with a gun, but a seemingly supernatural force of revenge.
Panosian’s art is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Olivetti’s, giving the book a nice balance between sci-fi slickness and gritty violence. Panosian’s art makes the combat in “The Unknown Soldier” look and feel violent, and the lead anti-hero conveys a lot menace for a guy whose face is wrapped in bandages.
Today’s comic marketplace may be dominated by capes and tights, but there’s a rich history in the medium of anthology books that tell weird, left-of-center stories. G.I. Combat taps into that vein and delivers a fresh take on classic concepts. With dinosaurs and helicopters on the cover and hard-driving stories on the inside pages, this is an easy book to recommend for anyone who enjoys comic stories just outside the norm.