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