Review: Men of War #8

DC ends one of its underloved cult titles with a feature-length ad for another underloved cult title.

Men of War #8

Men of War never got a chance to grow into the book I’d hoped it would – the book it was, in its best moments.  I don’t blame DC for that, or for canceling the title.  It was drastically underperforming despite getting the same push from the company most other New 52 titles got and it needed to be canceled.  But, as is so often the case, I wish we got just one more issue.  Because, while I enjoyed Men of War #8 (and the more grounded Men of War #7), it feels like something of a cheat to end the series without Sgt. Rock and his men – and, what’s more, to end the series as a glorified advertisement for the similarly-struggling Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E..

Don’t get me wrong.  Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt (who will take over writing duties for Lemire on Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. as of #10) did a fantastic job writing Frankenstein here, perhaps the best the character’s gotten since Morrison finished with him.  And the tale they’ve strung together, a World War II yarn in which Frankenstein teams up with Japanese superweapon-turned-traitor J.A.K.E. the G.I. Robot to defeat a monstrous invasion from Japan, is an epic action-adventure that manages to work in four distinct, exciting set-pieces (even the Bride gets a moment to shine)  while still telling a coherent story. It’s epic pulp, the way Frankenstein should be.

But that doesn’t make it a satisfying finale. Part of the charm of Men of War was its unique viewpoint, pitting Rock’s team of ordinary grunts against a world that had vastly outpaced them, and while the series never quite figured out how to tell truly compelling stories in this milieu, it was growing in fits and spurts, figuring out what worked slowly – the way most series’ do.  Even if it was only two issues long, some sense of closure for the characters would have been nice.  But instead, Men of War #7 told two separate stories – one about an elite British soldier hunting a notorious terrorist in his free time and the other about a soldier coming home from Iraq and having a hard time readjusting – that, while slight, at least kept to the same rough genre.  Men of War #8 is just such an enormous departure from the series in general that I can’t help but feel a little bit put off about it.

Tom Derenick turned in reasonably strong pencils through the end, and, as I said, it’s an enjoyable tale fairly well told.  But it isn’t Men of War.  Fans of Frankenstein will have a lot to love, but Joe Rock’s quickly fading fanbase have little reason to check it out.

Cal C.


5 thoughts on “Review: Men of War #8

  1. I ended up getting both 7 and 8, despite what I said in my #6 review. That being mainly for the shop didn’t take it off my pull list like I asked, and I didn’t realize I had 7 until I got home, and at that point figured I may as well grab 8 too.

    Either way, I can’t bring myself to read either of them. I’ve tried a few times, but I barely get past the first page before tossing it aside. Such a departure (especially with 8) from the story Brandon had going with Rock just kept me from it, I guess. Maybe the fact 7 was basically a One-Shot with characters I’ll most likely never see again, and 8 I’ve never cared for Frankenstein.

    Still, I would agree that I’d have much rather Brandon gotten to continue with Rock’s story to give a bit better closure (though I think he did a great job with the time/space he had) to it, than the two final issues we did get.

  2. I saw a lot of guest starring appearances in New 52 comics. Some of them were definitely badly matched: what does Batman have in common with Hawk and Dove, for example? At first I thought it was the same old story: DC using its most popular characters to improve the sales of its least selling titles. But then I saw some of this guest starring appearances even in comics that are selling well, so now I think it’s a DC policy not strictly related to sales data. Anyway, I don’t like it: 9 times out of 10, stories including a guest star are totally useless for the continuity of the series they belong to, and do not have much narrative quality. Besides, if I buy a Deathstroke comic, for example, it means that I want to read a story where he is the main character, not an issue where my hero is upstaged by someone else (whom I may not like). Do you agree?

    • On the one hand, I agree – DC has been VERY strict on their ‘no late comics’ policy, and while I appreciate that, it does mean some weird things have been going on. Whether it’s the rotating or fill-in artists (which I don’t mind at all), so long as the replacements make sense for the title, or the fill-in scripts with ‘guest stars’. I genuinely do think that’s part of what this is, an attempt to keep to the monthly release schedule.

      And it can be frustrating. Because, as you say, part of the reason we read what we read is because we like the characters.

      But… on the other hand, I’m always a fan of people being exposed to new things. I think a lot more people out there would like, say, Men of War if they gave it a shot. But they don’t. ‘Guest stars’ are a good way to introduce people to titles they may like but haven’t tried… but lately, some authors seem to be forgetting the ‘guest’ part of that! I think it can work well when done right, but having the guest overshadow the book’s actual star (or replace him outright) is absolutely the wrong way to do it.

      I’ve always held that the best way to introduce a new character is to have them repeatedly guest-star in more popular titles to drum up interest before they get their own book. This seems like what they’re trying to do, at least in part, but it I think by replacing the book outright, they’re creating more frustration than fans.

      • It was actually Damian’s appearance in Teen Titans that caused me to read volume 3. I didn’t have a lot of interest before that point. So yes, guest stars can work nicely if done right. Had Damian’s run with the Titans though been a story about Damian getting minor help from Rose and Superboy, well I’d probably have stopped reading as soon as he stopped making appearances (and that matter wouldn’t have picked up the 87 previous issues).

        Some comics are further away from others though, and will be harder to get in that guest to it. Men of War was by no means a super hero book (at least not in the super powers in tights sort of way), so for that and others like it a sudden appearance of Batman of Superman would be hard to do. Especially near the start of it. At least not without the appearance just feeling tossed in, which most likely would not actually help.

  3. @ xxadverbxx: I’m surprised you like Damian so much. I don’t know this character very well (I only glimpsed him in some Teen Titans issues, and it was before the New 52), but he always seemed very disagreeable and haughty to me. Did he have a positive evolution?

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