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Haunted Tank #1

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2008
By: Erik Norris

Frank Marraffino
Henry Flint, Lee Loughridge (c)
DC Comics
The plot of the Haunted Tank's first issue is a pretty straight forward one. American troops, in a tank, get ambushed by Iraqi insurgents with a rocket launcher as they trek across the desert in March 2003. After being incapacitated, and surely dog food, the confederate ghost general, J.E.B. Stuart swoops in and wipes out the Iraqis, saving the Americans. After some brief discussion about seeing a ghost and wondering if the Iraqi troops laced their missile with LSD, the Americans confront ghost general J.E.B. Stuart to ask why, of all people, did he choose to help this group of soldiers. Well, apparently, General Stuart follows and assists his bloodline and, wouldn’t you know it, Jamal Stuart is exactly that. Except, he’s black. So somewhere along the line their was an interracial relationship revealing that confederate general J.E.B. Stuart has an African-American descendant, and Jamal Stuart, proud of his heritage, has a little white in him. Hi-jinx ensue.

The concept behind this iteration of the Haunted Tank is one I couldn’t pass up. I’m not racist, but the opportunity to read banter between and obviously racist confederate general and a modern day African-American soldier, who are related, was too hilarious of a concept to skip out on. And the first issue of Frank Marraffino’s Haunted Tank mini-series has delivered, but differently than expected.

See, I imagined the confederate general, J.E.B. Stuart, zingin’ racist comments all over the place without a stutter in his voice. However, it was mostly Jamal Stuart, the modern day Africa-American soldier, who provides all the social commentary of the issue while J.E.B. stands by and takes it. I found that to be a funny twist on my expectations. It also proves Marraffino isn’t afraid to take risks with his scripting instead of falling victim to the pitfalls of cliché plot progression, which so many writers in the comic medium tend to do.

Frank Marraffino also packs the issue chalk full of references to famous pop-culture for the hardcore geeks in us all. If you’re well-versed in your film lore you’ll pick up on references to Ghostbusters, Aliens, and of course, Star Wars. But then again, setting a series is a desert and not making a reference to the “sand people” of Tatooine seems elementary. There really isn’t a better way to pay tribute to something so influential than that. Kudos Marraffino, for fitting that reference into your script so organically.

Then there is Henry Flint, who provides that awesome rough, non-flashy look most Vertigo books strive for which works great for a series set in the desert wastelands of Iraq. It captures the dryness of the landscape and the overall harshness of the environment, helping keep the illusion going for the reader, transporting them right into the thick of the action.

After one issue the Haunted Tank is off to a great start. I’m really excited to see how this series plays out and can’t wait for more hilarity to surely ensue. It’s the reason I gave it a shot in the first place, and it didn’t disappoint.



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