Welcome to the Hot Zone

Army@Love: The Hot Zone Club: written by Rick Veitch; illustrated by Rick Veitch and Gary Erskine (2007): Rick Veitch’s hilarious, bleak look at modern warfare and modern love is great satire that seems almost plausible.

As the endless American occupation of/war with the Middle Eastern country of Afbaghistan goes on and on, U.S. military recruitment levels drop to zero. The domestic economy collapses. People get really pissy. So begins this first collection of Army@Love, the title itself a play on the old Sgt. Rock comic Our Army at War.

Desperately seeking solutions in a world where pop-music success is measured solely by how many ringtones a song sells, the U.S. government decides to rebrand…well, warfare itself. By making it sexy. Really sexy. Periodic retreats allow for orgies of the armed forces. Sex is a recruiting tool. The Hot Zone Club welcomes any military personnel who manage to safely fuck during a firefight, one’s success in this endeavour commemorated in a Hot Zone patch on one’s combat fatigues. Drugs and alcohol are rampant. Actually, the soldiers are also rampant. Boy, are they rampant.

So too the bureaucrats, the civilian employees, and all the assorted family members, acquaintances, native citizens, and hangers-on. A PR expert and his secretary daily, mechanically work through the Kama Sutra as if it were a How-To guide for Power Point. It’s that kind of book.

Quickly, the war becomes a success. It still shows no signs of ending, but now the cool kids are all excited about it. It’s a Middle-Eastern Vacation! In this brave new world, soldiers carry their cellphones with them on the battlefield and have mundane conversations while mowing down ‘insurgents.’ Media coverage of the war is micromanaged and megacontrolled. There’s no longer anything resembling ‘real’ reporting. Just the way the government likes it. Welcome to the Hot Zone. Crisis of confidence averted.

Gary Erskine adds a cleanness of line to Veitch’s work that makes this stand apart from much of Veitch’s pleasingly shaggy, self-inked pencilling jobs. The writing is sharp, the characters alternately sympathetic and pitiable, the war extraordinarily familiar and almost plausible. Truly one of the great comics of the oughts. If only there were more than 19 issues! Highly recommended.

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