Saturday, October 31, 2009

Unknown Soldier #13

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Pat Masioni

I've been a big supporter of this iteration of the Unknown Soldier over the last year, but feel like my admiration for the title has reached a new level with this latest issue.

This is the first of a two-part story centred on Paul, the boy that Moses rescued from the rebels and dropped off at a re-education centre earlier. Paul is not happy there, and escapes. He returns to the place where he and Moses had camped, and meets up with him again. The two of them set out on a trip to Paul's village.

While this journey is being undertaken, Paul is finally also journeying back into his own experiences as a child soldier. Moses makes an uncomfortable confessor, and Dysart handles these scenes with sensitivity and care. This issue reminds me of books like 'Long Way Home' and 'What is the What', which mine similar ground. I like how Dysart works it all into his larger narrative.

This issue is drawn by Pat Masioni, whose work reminds me quite a bit of Alberto Ponticelli, the regular artist on the title. At times, I found his work a little stiff, but I like the simplicity with which he depicts the childrens' drawings at the camp, and the nobility he gives his characters.

It wasn't until I read the text piece at the back of the book that I learned that Masioni is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and that some of his own personal experiences are not dissimilar to those of the characters in the book. I've felt from the beginning that Vertigo should be praised for bringing about a title like this, but to then actively seek out artists from the (general) region is especially admirable. I would never accuse Dysart of appropriation in writing this comic, but I think that including artists like Masioni does establish a level of authenticity in the work, that I hope to see continued.

If you've never read an issue of Unknown Soldier, go pick up this one. It's a good place to start, and it's an incredibly gripping read.

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