I have a confession to make. Although I have been writing reviews for Comics Bulletin for a number of years, spend my Friday evenings rolling dice and killing orcs, and think that the BBC's decision to hold back the next series of Doctor Who until the autumn is one of the great injustices of our time, I am not one of you.
I am not one of you because I have never understood the fuss over Star Wars.
The first three films are quite good — and of course the newer ones are awful — but I've never really been moved by them in the same way others of my lazy shorthand '80s teen movie social archetype seem to be. I tend to think the Indiana Jones films — again, except for the new one — are George Lucas' best work, and I must admit that I tend to roll my eyes when a Star Wars reference turns up in something. I understand that it's an important cultural touchstone for some people, I just don't understand why.
So that makes this review a bit awkward, since Sgt. Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero #17 — or "Episode XVII" — is more or less an extended Star Wars reference. One would think that this means my eyes have rolled to such an extent that they've worn away the inside of my eye sockets and have, as a result, fallen out, rolled across the room and into the corner where all that weird fluff builds up.
Dear reader, you will no doubt be pleased to discover that this sequence of events did not occur and that my eyeballs are exactly where they should be. This is because the latest issue of Graham Pearce's comic is no brainless love letter to Lucas' blockbuster. It is an affectionate homage and there are plenty of fan-pleasing moments, but the main thrust of the issue is to use the narrative structure of Star Wars to deliver a — on occasion quite cutting — satire on the War on Terror. I can't go into too many details, as I fear spoiling the issue, but what Pearce does here is clever and effective and makes perfect sense, as he holds back on the more obvious jokes and instead lets a familiar story do the hard work.
If there's a flaw in the issue, it's that Pearce's usual bold linework is a bit too bold in the last third or so of the comic. The linework becomes quite a bit thicker all of a sudden, as if Pearce switched to a bigger pen or brush, and it doesn't work quite as well as the earlier pages; indeed looks a bit rushed in places. All that said, it's a minor flaw, and in general Pearce's art and storytelling are as dynamic and effective as ever.
Sgt. Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero has always been at its strongest when it's had a keen satirical edge, and this issue is perhaps the best example of that strength. Behind the explosions and the jokes, this is a clever, subtle and relevant comic, and the fact that it's all wrapped up in a Star Wars pastiche makes it all the more enjoyable.
Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, The Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don't get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn't hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.