American Sniper

I suppose this movie about America's most celebrated sniper (in that he has the most confirmed kills) is based on the book of the same name and is just as accurate or inaccurate as that. Still, I found it rather interesting being action-packed (plenty people are getting shot in the head) and yet does not glorify warfare (most of the film has our main character suffering from post-traumatic stress). I felt it struck a good balance between the difficulties of trying to be loyal to your country and fellow soldiers and being present for your family. Then again if we did not invade Iraq needlessly the story would not have had to happen.

Shooting War - Anthony Lappe

This glossy book is about an alternate reality wherein our middle east wars and terrorism troubles are nothing compared to these and where a hipster blogger gets caught up working for a large media corporation and becomes a pawn in the larger geopolitical machinations. The work is long, wordy, and very busy in terms of art that includes photos and social media-like aspects. Because this is an alternate reality, Lappe can be somewhat over-the-top and provides cover for his veiled references; however, it undermines the impact that a more realistic war story might have and made me struggle to get through it. shooting war

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad - Nathan Hale

While this is the second in the series (and 3rd I read) it was actually the first one completed, which is perhaps not too odd because I found it the most focused and an enjoyable tale out of a number of enjoyable works. The series are historical works for younger readers told with humor and insight, ostensibly by the magically enhanced, about to be executed, spy Hale--who shares his name with the author. This issue is about the ironclad ships that fought in the American Civil War (which also rang the end of the old, wood ship era). All the history books I've read explained this event as two iron coated ships, the Monitor from the Union and the Virginia from the Confederacy, that fought for several hours to a standstill and went their separate ways. The end. Not only do I finally learn how half ass that account is, but I was riveted by the exciting and interesting events that surround the story. Well done Hale, suck it American history text books. 

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel - Sharon E. McKay & Daniel Lafrance

Adapted from the novel about a group of kids that get captured and forced to join the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)--you know, the rebel group in central Africa that kidnaps and tortures children, forces them to rape, murder, maim, and pillage under the guise of a christian liberation movement, that Rush Limbaugh supports. It is certainly powerful stuff and apparently based on solid research, and yet I felt that with such incredible material, the novel (i.e., the fiction) part seemed both unnecessary and (for all its horror) sanitized (in that there is rarely screams of pain, no rape, little mutilation, etc.). Good introduction to the topic and the idea of healing after undergoing the horrible. 

A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return - Zeina Abirached

Well done! Stark B/W art in a simple yet striking style, told in few actions and even fewer words. Amazing, non-accusatory tale about a single moment during the Lebanese civil war (yeah, I know we forgot about that one, what with all the middle eastern wars we are so busy ignoring). I think this is a great learning comic in so many ways: Want to learn about drawing a comic using only large amount of blacks with whites? How about telling a story in sparse, simple language? Need to flesh out characters in short order? All this and more is done here and I want more. 

Jerusalem: A Family Portrait - Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi

A thick book and intense tale about the Jewish Halabys families who are feuding with each other while living under the scumbag British occupied Palestine during the creation of Israel. Yakin does a good job juggling the insanity of the time while presenting an array of characters with their own unique hopes and motivations without pulling punches as to their various criminal/heroic actions. I admit that there were difficulties at times keeping track of the secondary players as they comes and go and sometimes felt there was not enough to truly bring them to life as individuals (and they often look somewhat alike). Still, it is an impressive tale about a complex moment in history that affects all are lives today. 

Notes for a War Story - Gipi

Gipi tells a make believe story about someone making a movie about those who fought in a war (which Gipi made up for a make believe country) in such as way that it might as well all been true (and is probably based on the Yugoslavian civil war). We follow the lives of a group of kids--and they really are just kids--as a war shatters their lives and leads them into a world of crime and back to war again, which is Gipi's ways of pointing out that the two are really the same thing. The art is unusual, very sketchy with a splash of ugly color, and not something that I would not normally care for, but then again I normally don't like war stories where everything is based on something fake to make a statement, yet everything works together so well here that I got sucked in. Oddly, I will also be the first to say that the story is a little slow and boring at times, but, again, that's what life in war can be: incredibly dangerous one second coupled with periods of mundane nothing. I liked it, and considering you can read it in a very short time, I strongly suggest you do. [Note: My thumb is not actually part of the cover.]

Ender's Game

Poorly acted, and a poorly directed/written script for the film version of this book (which was written by a bit of a homophobic nut, so there's that) makes it so that it just doesn't work. For a sci/fi movie about a genius kid who is taught command armies so he may fight off a second alien invasion, there is very little in terms of impressive battles, F/X, or much of anything interesting. To make matters worse, if I hadn't read the book I'm not sure I would follow all that was going on--in terms of what character's were doing and why. The first hour had at least 15 minutes that could have been cut and I'm thinking that those who know the story might just want to jump to the end 1/3rd. Better still, skip the whole thing. Apparently, while I reviewed the sequel some four years ago, I never did a write up for Orson Scott Card's original Ender's Game... sorry. 

The Harlem Hellfighters - Max Brooks

I heard that the very smart son of the famous (and also very smart) comedian wrote a comic to celebrate the achievements of the most decorated group of Americans of WWI--just in time for the anniversary of that terrible event--who just so happen to be a group of black soldiers: segregated, set-up to fail, and discriminated against, despite their dedication to helping our country. I was sure that Brooks would do a good job. This title, with art by Caanan White, was incredibly disappointing. The story would have been much better served to simply recount events rather than fictionalize them as the reality is amazing and the fictionalizing does nothing. Brooks presents absolutely no characters or personalities of any sort and White's illustrations are horrible in that the b/w run together making the images difficult to see and filled with gratuitous violence (and yes, I am very aware it is a war story). This should have been a cake walk to produce a great graphic novel on such a topic; it feels like it actually took effort to produce such a poor work. 

War Stories vol 2 - Garth Ennis

Considering the ridiculous amount of violence Ennis dishes out in his Punisher comics, the four short war stories depicting different encounters from the 1930 and 40s that are presented here were rather subdued, concentrating more on personal interactions and the futility of conflicts. While I wasn't blow away (sorry, poor choice of words) by these tales, it was good to see comics tackling such topics and genres that they once did routinely.

20th Century Battlefield

It probably says something ill about me that love this show wherein a father and son team discuss various key battles of the last century, giving details, with the help of some rather unimpressive CGI, into the strategies (both the successes and failures) that shaped the outcome of both the specific battle and the larger war. There has only been a handful of episodes (and I've seen them all twice) but by the time you read this there should be another season.