Sunday, 14 July 2013

Army@Love volume 1 & 2 review

Rick Veitch has made a career out of writing satire comics. I find most of these satires are actually some of his best comics. What makes them so good is that Veitch understands and often loves his subject and that’s what enables him to write a successful comic that also serves as poignant satire. That dual relationship of love and hate is what fuels powerful criticism. I remember the first time reading Brat Pack, Veitch shattered an important part of superhero comics. He was able to do so effectively because he understood superhero comics so well. It’s with that realization, that he knows his subject; you can really understand the satire for what it is. It’s too bad that Veitch doesn’t seem to understand love and war as much as he does superheroes and Army@Love suffers because of it.

The first volume, collection issues #1-5 is actually a pretty good start to a series. The problem is that the seven remaining issues, collected in volume 2, can’t keep up with what came previously. Veitch can’t follow his own act and its damn shame because, for a while at least, he had something interesting to say about the American military, modern warfare and the media. What began as the exploration of our near future devolved into a shock and awe tactic that only left the narrative (and the reader) feeling hollow and spent.

The first volume begins with a woman fighting somewhere in the Middle East. She’s in the middle of combat talking to her husband in America on her cellphone. In the next few pages we see her join the Hot Zone Club. It’s a spin on the Mile High Club in which active soldiers have sex in the middle of combat, combining the adrenaline of combat with the pleasures of sex for the ultimate high.

The Hot Zone Club is the product of one man, Colonel Haley. Colonel Haley used to be a corporate man, working in marketing and specializing in consumer profiling. Haley ended up in the military after congress passed a corporate level draft. They began enlisting older men with job market skills and work experience in an effort to revitalize their military. People like Haley, having a specific set of skills, were able to apply them directly to certain areas of the military. After doing a deep-psyche consumer profile, Haley discovered that young Americans who indulged in movies and video games have developed an addiction to low levels of adrenaline. Based on his research and analysis, Haley has coined the phrase "peak life experience". He recruits huge numbers of young Americans by selling them peak life experience which they can find in the combat hot zone in the Middle Eastern theatre.

Colonel Haley's Motivation and Morale (or MoMo as the soldier's call it) has combined the adrenaline inducing experience of military combat with other experiences, most notably soldiers have sex while under fire. Soldiers are also allowed cell phones in combat and female recruitment has been increase to further exploit sexual tension in military settings. If that wasn't enough, MoMo organizes regular Retreats, which are essentially orgies that take place in controlled environments.
Army@Love did have some fun covers.
Veitch based his covers on
magazine advertisements. 
Army@Love outgrows its premise early on. Outgrows might be the wrong word. It's more of an issue that Veitch reveals too much too soon and it affects the potential growth of the story. In very little time the comic becomes a satire and a mockery of religion, witchcraft, romance, corporate America, magazine ads, various cultures as well as future technologies both near and far. The military satire stops developing in the third or fourth issue. The satire is still present but its repeated ad nauseum. It doesn’t change. The story doesn’t really evolve either. Veitch should have put sex somewhere in the title because we get far more of that than we get love. Quite a few issues revolve around discovering who’s sleeping with who and I stopped caring before the end of the first volume.

Army@Love could have benefitted from a shorter length and tighter focus. Like the Middle Eastern war it's commenting on, it's grown into a self-parody. I don't think Veitch pulled any punches in his commentary but he did run out of breath. Still, I enjoyed Army@Love but not in the form it was originally intended. I really liked it because of the funny melodrama and for seeing the artistic collaboration between Veitch and inner Gary Erskine. I don't think Veitch's art has ever looked better. It's too bad the story only required they draw the same small core of characters and military vehicles over and over. As much as I enjoyed it, it seems the art just like the story was destined to repeat itself without really adding anything new to the mix.

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