Sgt. Rock Will Save Me

Sgt. Rock Archives Volume 2; written by Robert Kanigher and Bob Haney; illustrated by Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Irv Novick and Jerry Grandinetti (1960-61; collected 2003): Second volume of the adventures of DC’s Sgt. Rock and Easy Company in various WWII theatres of war sees Joe Kubert become Rock’s primary artist and Robert Kanigher the primary writer.

War stories meant for children and early teens portray war as violent but bloodless, though Kubert’s evocative, gritty art nonetheless makes war look pretty hellish. Sgt. Rock’s adventures always tended to have a fabulistic quality, in part because like superheroes, Easy Company had far more adventures than could reasonably be accounted for in the chronology of the ‘real’ world. Instead, the reader gets bracing fables about courage, teamwork, and heroic death.

All of this is narrated by Rock, who sprinkles lessons-learned throughout that narration, explaining why and how he does certain things. Kubert’s art is really the star here (ably replaced by Irv Novick, Jerry Grandinetti, and Russ Heath in a few issues).

Kubert was already the comic-book master of suggestion by the time the early 1960’s rolled around, the art stripped down to lines and spot blacks, nothing fussy, nothing busy. The faces of the soldiers are distinct, unique, and careworn in places. The backgrounds are detailed when they need to be and suggestive when they don’t. The machinery of war looks, for the most part, realistic without drawing attention to itself with too much wanky detail. The overall effect is smooth and memorable, almost soothing — a textbook example of a comic book meant for children that could be enjoyed by adults, something we see almost nothing of today. Highly recommended.

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