Friday, March 19, 2010

Showcase Presents: The Unknown Soldier Vol. 1

Written by Joe Kubert, Bob Haney, Robert Kanigher, Archie Goodwin, Frank Robbins, and David Michelinie
Art by Joe Kubert, Irv Novick, Doug Wildey, Dan Spiegle, Jack Sparling, and Gerry Talaoc

It's taken me a few months to work my through this mammoth volume of stories taken from thirty-eight issues of Star Spangled Stories originally printed between 1970 and 1975, the hey-day of DC war comics.

As much as I enjoyed the individual stories, written and drawn by some of the legends of DC Comics, including some incredible work by Joe Kubert, I found that I could never read more than two in one sitting, as the stories were so remarkably similar. For almost every issue, there would be a great Kubert cover structured around some kind of gag - the Unknown Soldier would declare a town clear of enemies, but there'd be a Nazi hiding in a window; the Unknown Soldier would call soldiers into a cave for cover, but there'd be a Japanese soldier coming out of a tunnel, and so on.

Within each story, the Soldier would take on the identity of someone - usually an enemy officer of low rank, and with the help of partisans or resistance fighters, would foil some Nazi scheme or Japanese offensive. The stories were always enjoyable, but the effect of reading too many in succession was mind-numbing.

It was interesting to see how, as the series developed, the authors (especially Michelinie) would occasionally toss in a two-part story. It was also interesting to see how the stories jumped back and fort in time throughout the war, inserting the Soldier into a variety of big-name battles as well as smaller, lesser known (or invented) conflicts.

The original comics predated me, and I'd never read any of them as a kid. I enjoyed reading this book, but couldn't help but look at it as a historical artifact in many instances. I much prefer the current Unknown Soldier being published by Vertigo...

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