Review: Men of War #4

Men of War #4, cover by Viktor Kalvachev

Creatively, the first few issues of Men of War has been a fine (if a bit flawed) addition to the New 52, a solid but largely unspectacular main story, a killer premise, all brought down in part by a severely lacking back-up feature raising the price.  Men of War #4 doesn’t completely fix the issues I’ve had with the series thus far (too many stories ending in superhuman deus ex machina, too little focus on the military’s adaptation to superhumanity), but it does resolve at least one major issue: the back-up feature here is not only good, it’s better than the main piece.

The main plot follows Rock and his men after the shocking revelation that one of their own was a superhuman (with extremely powerful, vaguely defined abilities) trying desperately to escape.  They’re trapped in hostile territory, hunted by a mysterious, hyper-competent enemy, and harboring a hated superhuman in their own midst.  And they need to escape.  It’s a solid premise, and the execution this issue is far, far stronger than last month’s more tepid issue.

There may be some interesting analogues Brandon is going for with Korba, the self-hating soldier who is inadvertently ‘outed’ as a superhuman to his fellows and then subsequently alienated.  Korba is, after all, a good soldier, but one driven to hate himself for something inside of him he can’t control and desperately hides.  In fact, the book’s strongest moment is a two-page conversation between Korba and Rock, in which Korba describes how he feels:”There’s something broke inside me.  I don’t know how it happened.  I don’t know how to make it right.”

Along with that, the issue features a pretty great action sequence, one of the best of the series, as Rock, glad in a gas mask and disoriented from a chemical weapon attack, takes on a truck full of enemies by himself.  It’s a clever scene, and the action is well-choreographed by Tom Derenick, whose art (particularly when it comes to action) has improved significantly from the book’s earliest issue.

But the back-up is what truly has me excited for more.  The story, titled “Skull ‘Bots”, is an eight-page short story by B. Clay Moore with art by Paul McCaffrey, deals with the U.S. military field-testing some super-technology – a mech battlesuit for one of their warriors, like a clunky Iron Man.  Unfortunately, the suit quickly malfunctions, and the real brilliance of the story is found afterwards, when Moore takes a surprising detour into the bizarre realm of federal funding for weapons testing.  It’s an easy joke to make, but they make it well, and in a story that deals explicitly with the book’s core concept (much more so than the lackluster three-part “Navy Seals, Human Shields” story): how the advent of superhumanity changed warfare.

Now running with two solid stories, this is the first month I can recommend Men of War without reservation.  If the book manages to maintain the quality of both sections, it will be a very good book; if writer Ivan Brandon can find a way to widen the scope of the main stories a bit (or tighten the plots), it could become a great one.  Still, for its unique point of view and solid creative teams, Men of War is worth checking out, and Men of War #4, perhaps better than any issue before it, shows why I hope the series will succeed.

Cal C.

read/RANT

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4 thoughts on “Review: Men of War #4

  1. I’d love to see how things get handled with Korba later. I mean, they suddenly have a meta to take things on – assuming Korba can learn to control it and wants to. They have to deal with the fact he is a meta too. I love that line you quoted by the way. Many cartoon/comic fans at least would love to have some sort of power, yet Korba sees himself as broken for something inside of him. Though I don’t think Brandon was really going for it, it could allude to the thought that people who have some sort of mental or physical “impairment” are seen as being broken, yet they really shouldn’t and at least in most cases can still be a very valued part of society. I will also agree this picks up over last issue, and I do love the fact that this one doesn’t start at a point before jumping back to the end of last issue. As mentioned in my Men of War 3 review, though I liked that concept, it was starting to grow old.

    In terms of the back up story, I’m not raving about it, but I didn’t mind reading it at all and the jab it makes and how it ended makes me want to see a bit more. Assuming there will be more, as I didn’t notice any “to be continued” or “part 1 of __”.

    • No, “Skull ‘Bots” was a stand-lone, as are the next two back-ups if I recall correctly. But it was a well-written, conceptually interesting back-up, and I’m hoping the book can keep going in that direction.

    • Thanks! Glad you enjoy reading. We’ve got our inevitable Best of 2011 lists coming up soon, so I hope you’ll let us know what you think.

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