As Patriot-1 begins, readers are introduced to Staff Sergeant Kenny “Phantom” Baker. He’s a Delta Force Operator working in Afghanistan working on a supposedly easy mission in a war that is supposedly winding down. But as Phantom reminds readers, the war’s far from over and “today is probably the day I die.”
Ambushed by Afghans, Phantom is captured, tortured and made to witness the assassination of his partner – all in an attempt by the Afghanis to undercover the truth of Operation Quisling, a mysterious CIA operation that nobody knows much about but which everybody fears. I’m not spoiling things by saying that Phantom escapes, because his time as a prisoner is just the beginning of Phantom’s involvement with the tangled web of Operation Quisling.
Patriot-1 surprised me in its mood, emotions and character depth. Writer Kevin Powers delivers a taut action plotline that truly could be happening right now in Afghanistan. He takes pains to keep everything feeling genuine, with characters’ attitudes and approaches to their lives seeming like they came directly from the mouths of active duty Special Forces agents.
That’s helped along by Dexter Wee’s art. As someone who has only seen our Afghani forces on television, I can’t say how accurate the uniforms, guns and settings are, but they certainly seem real as he draws them and are thoroughly consistent with the way that I imagine our soldiers being dressed.
There are two exceptions to that comment, though. One, as you can see from the images that accompany this review, is the fact that Phanton wears a New York Yankees hat. Affection or photo-referenced, his choice of headwear seems strange in a war zone. It’s hard to imagine even an arrogant Special Forces agent not wearing a hard helmet on his head
Secondly, there’s the Patriot-1 outfit that’s shown on the book’s cover. Frankly, I was worried that this outfit would be lead the way towards a character like Captain America in this comic, something to take the book away from its realistic look and feel. But Wee and Powers put the costume in context by explaining it logically as body armor and having the military men debate whether the suit should be used at all.
It’s that level of true-seeming detail that makes Patriot-1 stand out on the stands. While it has elements of a summer action film with its heist plot, big guns and buff military men, this graphic novel is grounded in our world in ways that make the plot feel honest. Because so much of Powers and Wee’s work is grounded in the world outside our window, and because nothing about the book feels outlandish, it feels almost like a “based on a true story” sort of book than any sort of fictional creation.
Donna Gregory shares the praise for that feeling. Her palette, all greens, blacks and desert oranges, gives everything the oversaturated feel of a desert where bullets are more plentiful than water.
Patriot-1 has all the elements of a summer blockbuster – big explosions, major fights, even a romance. But in the way it’s grounded in the real world and the thoughtful way it builds characters, events and action, this fun graphic novel delivers something more memorable than that. I love Captain America, but it’s great to have lifelike patriotic heroes too.
For more information on this comic, visit patriot1comic.com
Jason loves his country, his comics and comics about his country. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr. His upcoming book The American Comic Book Chronicles: the 1970s is now available for pre-order on Amazon.