Saturday, July 9, 2011

Longbox Digging: Semper Fi' #4

Written by Michael P. Palladino
Art by John Severin and Sam Glanzman

I picked this up last week for only fifty cents, based on my enjoyment of war comics, the John Severin cover, and the price.  I vaguely remember buying the first issue of Semper Fi', Marvel's love letter to the Marine Corps, when it came out back in 1988, because that was when I bought every first issue Marvel published (imagine if I did that now - it would double my weekly pile).  I wasn't interested in it then, but thought it might be more my thing now.

The comic is split into two stories.  The first is drawn by John Severin, and it is set in Beijing (Peking, at the time) in 1900, when the Marines were tasked with guarding the Legation Quarter - the walled compound of embassies and foreign homes, during the Boxer Rebellion.  A pair of marines get into a brawl at a bar with some Irish soldiers, which somehow sparks off a bit of a street riot.  Later, they are sent into the city to rescue a missionary and the families under his care.  There are plenty of scenes that show young Americans bravely holding out against a much larger Chinese force.

While I enjoyed Severin's art, the casual disregard that the Americans are showing having for the Chinese is a little uncomfortable.  We're a long way from the ingrained racism of comic books from an earlier era, but there is also no effort put into giving any context for the motivations of the Boxers or other Chinese.

The second story, drawn by Sam Glanzman, has a marine helping local police to capture a bank robber gang in Washington DC in 1932.  It's pretty sillly, really.

I'm not surprised that this series is barely-contained propaganda, but when you consider that Marvel's series The 'Nam was being published at the same time, this book comes across as being the least critical or historically informed of the two.  I am curious in tracking down some of the other issues of this series though, mostly for Severin's art.  I see from looking around the internet that Andy Kubert used to draw this book too - I'd be curious to see what that looked like.  The fact that the comic only lasted nine issues doesn't give me a lot of confidence that other issues will be much better...

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