Enemies of America beware once more – Sgt. Mike Battle Volume 1
When last I looked at Graham Pierce’s Sgt. Mike Battle I was reviewing issue 1 and issues 11-14. I thought issue 1 was a real rough diamond, but by the time we got to the end of issue 14, there’d been a huge improvement all round.
“So we leave Sgt. Mike Battle at the end of issue 14, the highpoint of the series so far. Part of me wants to go back and read the issues I’ve missed, but a big part is worried that they wont live up to these. Pearce’s work from issues 1-14 is perfect evidence of taking an interesting, fun and funny idea, developing it, and simultaneously developing the craft of making comics, refining the writing, refining the art with every page. I may be wary of going backwards, but I’m looking forwards to seeing issue 15.”
And here, with this collection of issues 1-7 I find my words ringing in my ears. I’ve gone back and read the past and I find I’m right to be wary.
It’s really rough with the art of those first few issues – so much so that I’d question the need to even include them here. Completeness is one thing, but given that the concept behind Sgt Battle is so strong, and by it’s very nature it’s something that needs little explaining, I think Pierce may have been better served leaving them out.
(Silly, overblown ideas are all through Sgt Mike Battle – but they’re funny. Snickers all over this page – those blown up heroes, the fate of Captain Success and worst of all, heaven help me, a guffaw over Captain France. From Sgt Mike Battle Volume 1 by Graham Pearce)
But the strength of Sgt Mike Battle, at least here in these earlier episodes isn’t in the art – it’s in the idea.
And the laughs. Of which there are many.
The idea is simple – take a moronic Nick Fury type, throw him into every possible scenario you can think of and have him battle every possible ridiculous threat there is. Hence you get Sgt Mike Battle Nazi Stomper, Sgt Mike Battle Commie Stomper, Sgt Mike Battle Iraqui Stomper and many, many more. Or like I said in the last review…..
“Tongue jammed firmly in cheek, join me on a Nazi / Kamikaze/ Commie / Iraqi / Taleban stomping adventure with Sgt. Mike Battle; fearless, brave, with great teeth and a pure heart he fights whomever his president tell him is axis of evil bad guy #1 this week – for truth, justice and the American way. Hitler, those Red Commie types, Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden – they all get a good stomping. Sure, he might lose the occasional teen sidekick along the way, but what the hell, they knew it wasn’t forever when they took the job, right?”
(The Sarge parachutes into action over Berlin, never short of a moment to recap for his readers, albeit with his own, rather moronic spin on it all. From Sgt Mike Battle Volume 1 by Graham Pearce)
And in this first collection we get something of a potted history of modern warfare, albeit through the stupid filter of Sgt Mike Battle’s eyes. He’s a patriotic sort, patriotic in that dumb as a post way. But Battle’s idiocy leads Pearce to write some truly funny stuff, and we’re joining in, laughing at Battle’s pompous, ridiculous struggle through time as he does his best to keep America free from tyranny, pure, clean and strong.
It’s impossible to really pick out a few pages to get over the fun of Sgt Mike Battle. The enjoyment is really a cumulative effect, as the jokes build and build, the situations change but the reactions of Battle remain the same. By the end of the book there’s a real feeling that you’ve had a great laugh at someone else’s expense. A bloody good laugh.
(Sgt Mike Battle on point against those hordes of Commies, protecting the heroic American people all the way…. . From Sgt Mike Battle Volume 1 by Graham Pierce)
On top of that, for anyone with a modicum of knowledge of the history of comics, especially Marvel Comics, there’s a lot of fun to be had in spotting his references, whether it’s the frequent superhero allegories or the brilliant times in the 80s when Battle faces down all manner of villainous animal themed terrorists (Panda, Beaver) in issues 4-6, possibly the strongest sequence in this volume.
Or maybe you’ll be younger than me and enjoy the Image laden references in issue 7, where Battle leads Battleblood – a seemingly endless roster of very similar and familiar superheroes all drawn in a particular Image style of one Grit Liefline.
The next collection, and hopefully there will be one, will presumably collect issues 8-14. And that’s where the really good stuff lies, where Pearce gets his character really working well, where his art improves beyond recognition, where it all fits together really nicely. This first collection is interesting to see both the genesis of a good, fun idea and an artist taking his first steps towards what would become, past this volume, a solid and funny work.
Sgt. Mike Battle Volume 1 is available from Graham Pearce through his website.