Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Special Forces review

I quite like Kyle Baker as a comics creator. I haven’t read his entire output, but I’ve enjoyed and often loved everything I’ve be able to get my hands on. His art is difficult to describe in part because he’s proved to be rather versatile. The first comic I’ve ever read by Baker was I Die at Midnight, an original graphic novel for Vertigo Comics. It’s an excellent little comic and I encourage anybody who sees it to snatch it up since it’s long been out of print. Enough about my history with Baker, let’s talk about Special Forces!

The story is very simple. There is a military man, Sarge, who upon his return from a tour in Iraq was supposed to recruit a unit of soldiers to send overseas. If he failed to do so, he would be forced to go back for a second tour.  Two other military men (Military Police?) pay Sarge a visit, ready to take him away from his family and send him on his second tour since he didn’t find enough recruits. They decide to give him a second chance and in one day, he fills his quota – but he did so with criminals, homeless, degenerates and the mentally ill. On the last day before they’re sent off to Iraq, one of the recruits commits suicide and Sarge is forced to replace him. The rest of the story is about their mission to find and terminate the man known as Desert Storm, one of Al-Queada’s fiercest warriors.

Let me be clear, the Special Forces of the title are Sarge’s recruits. They’re special in the way school yard bullies call other kids special. These “special forces” are the expendable fringe of society sent halfway across the globe in order to wage war and, perhaps, die for a country that doesn’t care for them. They’re not special in the sense of an elite squad of soldiers. Then again, they kind of are. Zone and Felony are, despite and perhaps because of their limitations back stateside, super soldiers à la John McClane. The causes for their unnatural bravery and dedication to their job are explained in the first issue and continuously mocked throughout the duration of the comic. Zone, you see, is autistic and Felony is a young offender. Both of them were high school students before their recruitment.

Special Forces is a satire of the Iraq War by Baker. I’m not a fan of war politics which is a bad thing when reading this book, but it’s also a good thing because Baker also pokes fun at Hollywood action and war films and it’s through those lenses that I read this comic. Reading the comic through that filter, I found the satirical aspects of Special Forces to be more enjoyable than if the satires in the comic been strictly political. There is an over the top glorification of war in the style of the most ludicrous and sensational Hollywood movies. Characters are wearing tattered clothing that reveals just enough to tantalize the reader but defy all laws of physics. Baker mixes sex and violence in a high octane comic book cocktail that is sure to grab the attention of the most “special forces” of comic book reader. 

Felony’s clothing in particular is the remnant of what used to be a military uniform. There are but tattered bits of material left, just enough to cover parts of her breasts. What was once her pants are now the shortest of short shorts you’ve ever seen and in case the reader was wondering, Baker lets us know that Felony either wears a thong or goes commando. It’s my opinion that had she been wearing a thong, Baker would have made her flaunt it in the most ridiculous of acrobatic postures to ever been found in a war zone. Baker takes full advantage of Felony accoutrement to bend and contort her in the most tantalizing positions, simultaneously satirizing magazine advertisements and super heroine comic book postures. In some scenes we saw far more of Felony’s breasts and ass than we saw her face, and that’s just how we like it . . . isn’t it? Baker force feeds us what we want which seems to be over the top violence and near nudity. Even Zone loose his shirt by the end of the story just like many action heroes did in the 80s. Felony is a wartime supermodel and Zone is a prime example of machismo.

The best way to enjoy this book though is to admire the art. Kyle Baker is an impressive artist. Over the last decade or so he’s been experimenting quite heavily with computer generated art and computer modifications done to more traditional. There have been some mixed results but, somewhat surprisingly, he’s been able to retain his defining style and storytelling skills. He experiments with computerized art in Special Forces and again, it’s with mixed results but it’s all very interesting and, at the very least, admirable, even if I much rather see his more traditional style of art.

It was fascinating to see how Baker progressively included the computerized art in the comic. The first issue is uses the 3D effects sparingly. Soon, most of the backgrounds are photographs taken by Baker himself, or from another source, and modified on a computer. By the last issue nearly everything, characters included, are drawn on using a computer and they the effect is eerie. Insane characters doing impossible things yet they look so real. It’s a strange hyper reality that contrasts the preposterous events taking place.

 This comic is absolutely ludicrous but I did enjoy it. It’s pure pop art. Baker’s use of bright, clashing and often sometimes garish colours turns the whole thing into a parody of itself. Some pagers look like Andy Warhol wannabe paintings and it fits the tone of the comic perfectly. This is the same Baker that unleashed his ridiculous side on Deadpool Max. Unfortunately, the subject matter doesn’t really fit with the Kyle Baker I know but I really appreciate the effort and it’s still a better comic than the latest issue of Green Lantern or something else in that vein. This is my least favourite Kyle Baker comic to date and it’s still worthy of some praise. It also helps a bit that in the end, despite Baker’s sharp satire, there is some appreciate for what the US military does or, at the very least, what some of the people on the lower echelons.

1 comment:

  1. Mario!!

    I actually have words of wisdom for you. I realise comics are fictionnal but at the end of the day everything, story or novel or comic written derives from everyday events or imaginary thoughts. I have not read the above story but the fact that your main caracter sarge is force to re-deploy is something comonly seen in the american military. The referd terminology is "stop loss" just incase you are curious.