Army@Love Vol 1.0: The Hot Zone by Rick Veitch, Gary Erskine

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Army@Love Vol 1.0: The Hot Zone

By Rick Veitch, Gary Erskine

Vertigo

Rick Veitch and Gary ErskineFor a culture whose lifeblood is so irrefragably tied to the constant and immediate delivery of entertainment through infinite channels, we’ve become seemingly content to have our satire beamed in on delay, accepting at best, past depictions of historical events as allegory for contemporary scenarios, on the strength of the much reiterated adage that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Of course there’s a lot of truth to that ancient cliché, and there’s much to be said for the long, rich tradition of allegorical satire, but at the same time, it seems that an age so achingly devoid of subtlety demands similarly blunt satire.

There are plenty of forces at work prohibiting the delivery of instantly gratifying satire, not the least of which is the unavoidable link between corporations, politics, and the media companies that serve as the channels for our ever-important stream of unbroken entertainment. As these three seemingly divergent entities grow to depend on one another more and more for survival, opportunities for the projection of well-timed satire will likely only grow fewer and farther between.

As we noted in our recent review of the Iraqi war satire, Shooting War, the graphic novel is one of the last bastion for such notions of self-expression. Even books arriving from the largest publishing houses in the medium (take, for example, the AOL-Time Warner-owned DC), are seemingly not bound by as strict a set of political dogma are our other primary channels for artistic expression.

There are several reasons for this. First is the fact that, for better and worse, the medium continues to be marginalized. Amongst policy makers, the concept that funny books might have the power to drive American public opinion en masse, is likely downright absurd. The whole Danish Mohammed controversy was surely a fluke—a non-American fluke. Residents of the nation that invented cable news and Starbucks must be advanced enough not to be so moved by a medium primarily utilized to showcase the adventures of costumed superheroes.

 

Point number two, like so many things in this life, is a matter of money. Comics are arguably the most cost-effective medium of power graphic expression. Unlike, say, dramatic movies or television, graphic novels generally don’t require a small army to complete the artistic aspects of the process. Like the aforementioned Shooting War, much credit for the success of Rick Veitch’s Army@Love is dependent on the work’s effectiveness on a graphic level. It’s hard to imagine Veitch’s satire being quite so biting, had it not been accompanied by the corresponding art.

 

The medium also offers Veitch a unique method with which to draw out his notions to their logically absurd conclusions. Based on the all-too-real scenario of armed forces stretched far beyond their means, Veitch’s army launches The Office of Motivation and Morale (MoMo), which sells a version of wartime service that is more in-line with a drunken teenage spring break than the manner of crew cut marching drills that we’ve come to expect from our uniformed service men and women. There’s far-flung casual mid-battle sex, artillery driven by hot electric guitar licks, and looting of Afbagistan [sic] toy stores. It’s the next step in the absurdity of war—the spiritual successor to the “Mickey Mouse Club Theme” that closes Full Metal Jacket.

 

All the while, Veitch is careful to make Army@Love something more than merely extended allegory for the aforementioned absurdities. As evidenced by the “A@L Personnel Files,” the artist has amassed a large cast of players for the book. Characters exist in and outside of the war zones, but all are intertwined by the web of hedonistic nihilism that drives the story.

 

No one, it seems, is safe from some manner of extreme vice, be it adultery, bloodlust, gambling, or illegal activities. Whether in or out of battle, all characters exist in some manner of nself-constructed “Hot Zone,” and all play integral roles in Veitch’s increasingly complex human soap opera, making Army@Love a rare satire as concerned with its players as the real-world phenomenon at which is pokes fun, and providing a compelling reason to eagerly await Volume Two.

 

–Brian Heater

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