War comics haven’t been much in the spotlight lately, with some notable exceptions like Dynamite’s Battlefields written by Garth Ennis. However, with two real life wars still ongoing, DC serves up Men of War as part of its New 52, starring a brand new Sergeant Rock leading a modern unit into intense missions. The prospect of a new Sgt. Rock in the DCnU is pretty cool with Men of War #1 telling the story of how the original Frank Rock’s grandson rises to lead in a fantastic war comic with Ivan Brandon writing and Tom Derenick on the art.
Men of War #1 grabs the reader from the get go with a wounded soldier recovering slightly from wounds to realize he will probably die that day with the world is going crazy around him. Then there’s a flashback showing how the soldier, actually then Corporal Joseph Rock, was assigned to the mission and how his team was sent in to an insurgent infested area to rescue a missing senator.
The book lives up to the promise of its premise delivering stories of military operations in the presence of super heroics. This may be a bit disappointing to those expecting a full-on war traditional war comic, but Men of War still delivers quite a war comic experience with just a hint of super powers. That said, the metahuman causing all the destruction in #1 is not seen directly (leaving it uncertain if it is a hero or villain, or if there are both), and is in the book a total of eleven panels. It’s also important to point out that all the men in Corporal Rock’s unit are ordinary humans with no super powers, just standard military ordinance. In fact, for a book set firmly in the DCnU, there is a surprising amount of realism in Men of War #1. It is full of acronyms of military speak for things like weapons, targets and tactics, which makes it interesting for those not well versed in the words of war.
The book is pretty exciting and keeps your attention. Joe Rock is a sympathetic character who only wants to serve, and not lead despite what the higher-ups want. The men in his unit are tough as nails and serve bravely even in extraordinary odds.
Surprisingly there is a backup feature called “Navy Seals” (or maybe not so surprisingly as the cover price is $3.99) by writer Jonathan Vankin and artist Phil Winslade which is about a unit of Seals in enemy territory. This backup has no super powers element to it, so it’s a cool realistic war read, and ends on a startling hook.
The art in by Tom Derenick in the main feature is gritty and displays a great deal of realism. There are shadows well utilized and the art overall is very well balanced. The military weapons and vehicles are all very well rendered. The backup feature’s art by Phil Winslade is also quite realistic, but has more of a classic feel despite the modern setting, though this is a good fit for the backup and overall vibe of the book.
All around, Men of War is a solid war book with a cool twist of military completing missions in the presence of super human threats. The main feature introducing Joe Rock is action packed and goes a long way in establishing Rock as a leading character and introduces the readers to his adventures and the reason behind how he is promoted to sergeant. The backup is a worthy addition, but a little compressed in quality for its short page count. This is another one I’m unsure about adding to my pull list outright as the price tag is a little prohibitive for me, but I do think I want to check out issue #2 at the very least to see how Joe Rock rises to the challenges laid out in issue #1. Overall, it’s worthy of its $3.99 cover price, especially if you’re interested in military stuff and want to see what it’d be like to serve in the DCnU.