Sgt. Rock’s Combat Tales
Sgt. Rock’s Combat Tales provides a compact look at a once-popular, now-mostly-forgotten genre: the war comic. These classics from the late 50s were written by Robert Kanigher with art by Joe Kubert, Jerry Grandenetti, Irv Novick, and Russ Heath.
The digest-sized book opens with Rock’s “origin story”, a tale of who he was (a boxer) and his determination, the quality that defined him as a person and a soldier. Other stories deal with what it’s like to be a grunt under a dedicated drill instructor; how Rock holds together the men of Easy Company; and the heroic struggles of soldiers just doing their job no matter what. These are battles where every inch of ground is hard-fought, step by step, and the men risk not only death but going crazy from combat stress.
The reproduction is excellent, with vibrant colors and smooth tones (no dot-patterns), thanks to Lee Loughridge and Digital Chameleon. The bizarre hues — backgrounds in hot pink or orange or bright yellow with foreground figures in purple or dark green or brown — provide contrast, keeping the excitement level up and the eye awake. They’re also an authentic example of how far printing technology has come, with many more subtle color choices available today.
These 12-pagers are valuable reminders of the cost of battle and the better human qualities that lead to the nobility of the common man. It’s not idealized, though; the soldiers wallow in the dirt, pain, struggle, and loss of war. The narration and dialogue are dense, with a tough-guy tone that’s meaningful instead of corny.
The medium of comics is often praised as a way to experience places and events we’d otherwise never see. That’s certainly the case here, thankfully.