Haunted Tank #1

I really like the concept of this revamp — the ghost of JEB Stuart shows up to help his descendant in combat in Iraq, only it turns out that the modern-day soldier is black — but the execution is much too crude for me.

I can appreciate that there’s an argument to be made that soldiers in war speak vilely, with profanity and vulgar concepts abounding, but I don’t want to wade through it. Especially when the interesting parts about the story are raised but not explored.

For example, Jamal Stuart gives JEB hell about slavery and the toll it took, condemning the Southern culture the ghost embodies. The next page, we’re back to talking about lineage without any response from Stuart on whether he did support that cause of the war.

Stuart rejects the idea that he’s a descendant and tells the ghost to get lost but later seems to have no problem with his help when he needs it and even accepts the presence of a Confederate flag. If I’m being generous, I can assume that he’s incredibly expedient in the face of life-or-death battle, but it feels like I have to provide too much of the explanation that’s not on the page.

I’m not familiar with the work of writer Frank Marraffino, but artist Henry Flint does a good job with the figures. The storytelling was a bit confusing at times, with the wordless battle panels, but I’m willing to attribute that to the havoc of war.

I came out of this issue liking JEB the best of any character. He’s got the most clearly developed sense of morality (even if it’s wrong), he’s defined briefly but strongly, and he’s visually compelling. I don’t think that was the intended response.

I’d love to see this fantasy concept used to explore the nature of militarism, unjust war, and racism in the military, but I don’t trust that, with only four more issues to go, that they’ll be approached in any depth. Especially after reading this uneven debut.

Plus, the press release that accompanied this complimentary copy had some awfully mixed messages. It’s captioned “the top reasons you should review Haunted Tank”, and the first one is

The first issue is entitled Shock and Awesome! Need I say more?

If you don’t need to say anything else, why are there five more bullets following? It also calls the ghost “silly” while trying to push the topicality and edginess of the comic, a somewhat confusing approach. That sums up the conflict here: they want to revamp a concept some find cool and others ludicrous into something more meaningful, but the question arises whether this is the best vehicle for realistic depictions of war.

In other reviews, Timothy Callahan loved it, Tom Spurgeon is apathetic, and Chris Sims loves the original concept. He also reminds us of Kurt Busiek’s attempt to recreate the idea in 2003’s Power Company, with a female soldier.

3 Responses to “Haunted Tank #1”

  1. Rob McMonigal Says:

    Damn. And I’d been reading such good reviews, too. I hate when Vertigo titles get crass just because HEY IT’S VERTIGO!! We can be CRUDE!! Yeehaw!!!

  2. Paul O'Brien Says:

    I reviewed it on If Destroyed a few days ago. It’s nothing to write home about, although I suppose it’ll be to some people’s taste. The “need I say more” line in the press release pretty much sums it up, actually. If you’re the sort of person who thinks that “Shock and Awesome” is a Wildean piece of wordplay, you’ll LOVE this book.

  3. House of Mystery #8 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Harry, the bartender, reveals his early days in the house in the company of Abel (and Goldie!) in a piece illustrated by Henry Flint (Haunted Tank). […]




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