Writer: Kyle Baker
Artist: Kyle Baker
Publisher: Image Comics
From the first page of this new comic mini-series by Kyle Baker, the reader is either hooked or repulsed by the graphic imagery and language that greets him or her. Personally, the first page piqued my interest, with a caption that reads, ďThe black guy dies first,Ē as a soldierís head explodes. From here, we have an acidic indictment of warfare in general and the War in Iraq in particular. As in any good war satire, from Catch-22 to Dr. Strangelove, the absurdity of the battlefield and the decision-makers who make war possible are the key elements of the comedy. In addition, there also has to be the gut-wrenching possibility of death around the corner, always lurking like another character in the story. If these characteristics are essential for this type of satire, then Bakerís Special Forces #1 has it all and then some. We all know the incredible artistic talents of this multi-Eisner winner, but it bears repeating that Baker is up there with the Alan Moores and Neil Gaimans of the world in regards to clever scripting. In fact, his work in Special Forces reminded me of Frank Miller during his Dark Knight period, mainly in regards to the outrageousness of the reality he creates. Baker has achieved a definitive statement about the War in Iraq, using a true story to elaborate upon his personal position. The unit introduced in Special Forces is the last group of people you would expect on the front lines, which is Bakerís way of stating that our leadership is grasping at straws, exhausting any and all resources to continue the War in Iraq until they feel the political situation there is resolved.
The story is told from the perspective of Felony, a curvaceous young woman who beats Laura Croft hands down on the scantily-clad scale (as well as the zero-gravity breast) meter. Like a present day Motoko Kusanagi, she fights through the intensity of the battleground with bravado and surprising testosterone. In fact, this strange inhabitant of the war zone is the only character maintaining a level head during the violent insanity of battle. Iíve always said women are great at quick decisions. Anyway, mixed in with Felonyís narration is the story behind the creation of this Ďspecial force.í Sergeant Ramirez (Sarge to his unit) is a shell-shocked recruitment officer who has been given a strict quota. If he doesnít meet his quota in a dayís time, heís going to be shipped back to Iraq. To avoid this fate, he recruits just about anyone he can find whoís interested, regardless of their mental or physical condition. Therefore, he picks up an obese food addict (Doughboy), a flaming homosexual (Hummer), a three-strike delinquent (Felony), and, most intriguing, an autistic young man (Zone). The story behind Zone is definitely the highlight of the issue, and one of the main impetuses behind Bakerís decision to create this comic (Zoneís character is based on a true story reported on ABC and CBS News). Like Forrest Gump, Zone doesnít fully comprehend the implications of the events occurring around him. All he knows is that he has a job to do (in fact, heís given a list of tasks to complete: Destroy hideout. Capture leader.), and he wonít stop until the job is done. This kind of single-minded thinking, normal for someone with autism, acts to inspire Felony in the end, giving her the inspiration to raid the enemy compound even though she acknowledges Zoneís mental handicaps. This kind of ridiculous situation could only occur in the framework of a war-time setting, where the normal rules of civilization no longer apply. Itís man reverting back to beasts, armed with guns rather than teeth.
Baker understands the insanity of the all-too-realistic world he has created for Special Forces, so the cartoon-style art which is equal parts cheesecake and Sgt. Rock works extremely well in creating a surrealist landscape for this satire. In fact, almost none of the panels show an overview or landscape of a scene. Most of the panels are very close up and personal, giving us not only the emotions (or lack of) for each character, but also allowing the reader to feel the claustrophobic intensity that is warfare. Every decision is a life-or-death one, and the combination of the hands-on reading experience and the steady body count among the group leads to a tone similar to the movie MASH. Baker combines absurdity, wit, violence, and social standing into a comic experience unlike anything youíll read this year. If you pick up this first issue of Special Forces, be prepared to commit yourself to the next five installments. Itís that good!
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