Monday, April 5, 2010

Kicking Axis Butt, One Nazi at a Time...

This review is part of an observation of the 65th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat.

Showcase Presents: Sgt Rock, Vol. 1 (DC Comics, 2007)
Writers: Robert Kanigher and Bob Haney
Artists: Joe Kubert, Jerry Grandenetti, Russ Heath, et. al.
Rating: Ten of Ten Stars

"Showcase Presents; Sgt Rock, Vol. 1" reprints in black-and-white format almost 550 pages of the earliest stories featuring DC Comics' most popular (even if the Enemy Ace has been the most celebrated by critics) war comics charater Sgt. Frank Rock of Easy Company.

This book is a great read if you're looking for down-to-earth, well-told stories featuring an extraordinary soldier, and it's an even better read if you're a fan of Joe Kubert and insterested in seeing how his work looked as he reached the height of his artistic powers.

And, of course, Nazis getting their butts kicked in almost every way imaginable.

It's fascinating to watch Sgt. Rock and Easy company evolve over the years. Early on, Rock was more of a narrator than the character the stories were about, but later he becomes the central figure and often shares the stage with a soldier or two that he and battle mold into a better soldier and even a better American at times. It's also interesting to see Easy Company evolve, as Kanigher starts adding a supporting cast to the series. (Some of the characters are bit goofy, and down the line, well past the point covered by this book, the supporting cast of Bulldozer, Wildman, Ice Cream Soldier, and Flowerchild get a bit much... but it's still neat to watch the strip's foundation be laid and watch it evolve over the three years of stories presented here. Even more interesting is the "prototype" Rock who appears at the very beginning of the book. It's a Bob Haney-penned story featuring a very different character but still one that paved the way to the series, much like the one-shot horror tale by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson led to the "Swamp Thing" series, even if the two were unrelated except for the creators.

Although the earliest stories in this book are close to 50 years old now, they've all stood up extremely well to the passage of time. They are as exciting and fresh as the day they were first published, with Robert Kanigher doing some greeat work--and only rarely falling into his oft-repeated rhythm of "story theme, three crises for the characters where the story's theme is repeated in thge bluntest possible ways, and a resolution that features the theme in a funny, ironic, or poignent way), so the stories here are varied. The book also holds up nicely to just sitting and reading, because, unlike his Enemy Ace material, he doesn't feel obligated provide a detailed introduction to Sgt. Rock in each and every story.

"Showcase Presents: Sgt. Rock, Vol. 1" is another of DC's low-cost packages that gives readers easy access to some of the greatest American comics ever published. If you like comics, and you've never read these stories before, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It's a book featuring two of the genres masters--Kanigher and Kubert--producing fantastic work.

For a consise overview of the publishing history of Sgt. Rock, click here to visit the Toonpedia.

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