The Cipher 06/30/10

June 30th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Unknown Soldier 21: words by Joshua Dysart, art by Rick Veitch, cover by Dave Johnson. No preview online, near as I can tell.

The white man came to Africa with rifles and Bibles; Heard the name, started changin’ the titles.

Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli’s Unknown Soldier is pretty great. I wrote an appreciation of it for Comics Alliance earlier this month. It’s winding down in a surprisingly organic way, and this issue is a one-shot that looks like it’s going to work with some of the themes of the book. The solicit:

A standalone story with guest art by industry great Rick Veitch (SWAMP THING)! The AK-47 is the shining star of resistance movements, small wars and domestic crime the world over. And this is the story of a single rifle’s 30-year trek from Cold War Soviet Union to an unknown soldier deep in the African bush.

I’m on the hook, and it sounds like this is a good point for people who aren’t reading to give it a try, too. If you like it, the first trade is ten bucks. Here’s the history of the AK-47 on Wikipedia.

4thletter reads comics! Here are some pull lists for floppical format funnybooks.
David: Captain America 607, Heralds 5, Unknown Soldier 21
Esther: Action Comics 890, Green Lantern 55, The Brave and the Bold 18, Wonder Woman 600
Gavin: Green Lantern 55, Jokers Asylum II Clayface, Invincible 73, Captain America 607, Deadpool: Wade Wilson’s War 2, Deadpool Team-Up 892, Doomwar 5, Marvel Zombies 4, Luke Cage 3, Secret Avengers 2

Looks like… Gavin likes everything, Esther likes villains, and I like… nothing. Ouch.

I like this post from my buddy Lauren about what she’s learned by reading print comics over the past few months.

What’re you reading, what looks good, what should I be reading, etc. Let’s do it.

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Black History Month ’09 #19: Bridging the Gap

February 19th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

A book that I’m enjoying quite a bit is Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli’s Unknown Soldier from DC’s Vertigo imprint. I first found Dysart via Mike Mignola’s BPRD series, and Ponticelli’s entirely new to me. Together, the two of them have created one of the more interesting books to come out of DC Comics in more than a few years.

Previously, the Unknown Soldier was just that- an unknown soldier. Depending on the version, his identity was kept secret from the characters he interacted with or even the reader. He was often tied to World War II, but the new one is more closely associated with the war-torn land of Uganda.

It stars Dr. Moses Lwanga, a normal man and relief worker who has come to Uganda with his wife. He’s a good man, and a kind one, but this kindness backfires when he runs out of the camp to help someone and is ambushed by child soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army. A voice whispers in his ear and he knows exactly what he has to do in order to kill the children and save his life. He does it and is immediately overcome with despair. He destroys his face with a rock and lays down to bleed to death.

After a curious series of events, Moses has found himself in a situation where he is traveling under a false name and danger lurks around every corner. Eventually, push comes to shove and he has to listen to that little voice in his ear to survive, even if surviving means the death of multiple children by his own hand. Add in the trials of Moses’s wife, who does not know what happened to him or where he is, and you have a startling picture of modern-day Uganda.

Unknown Soldier, when it’s on, is a gripping comic. The end of the first issue is a pretty good depiction of despair and fear as any, and was what originally hooked me on the series. Dysart has clearly done his homework, as both the work and his supplemental material shows. Ponticelli’s art isn’t realistic in a Bryan Hitch kind of way, but still does a great job of getting across exactly what it needs to. The violence is ugly, wounds look painful, and damage goes further than “ripped shirt, scuffed cheeks, bloody nose.” When Moses destroys his face, there’s a panel where the rock catches on his lips. “Beautiful” is the wrong word for it, but it’s a little touch like that that sells the book.

I think that if Unknown Soldier keeps up, and the quality stays high, it could be one of those classic Vertigo books that really captures people’s hearts. It’s not high fantasy for dreary goths, and it isn’t an irreverent spin on American culture. It’s just the story of a man who is up against a wall, knows exactly what to do to escape, but finds the solution so reprehensible that he can barely stand to do it.

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