Armageddon Patrol Book 1
By John A. Short, Alwyn Talbot and Alex Paterson
Armageddon Patrol is a simple book based around a simple concept – What if superheroes had fought in Vietnam?
That’s Armageddon Patrol’s thing. It’s not a new idea and it’s not that original a comic. And I’m sure John Short would be one of the first to agree.
It’s a little bit Martha Washington, a little bit Apocalypse Now, a little bit Tour Of Duty, a little bit Good Morning Vietnam (in fact, a little bit any TV or movie set during the Vietnam war), a little bit X-Men and quite a bit of Judge Dredd, albeit female and dressed in the good ol’ stars and stripes.
But it is pretty damn enjoyable, albeit very rough around the edges.
(Maiden America’s first mission gets a little dangerous. From Armageddon Patrol Book 1, by John A. Short, art bt Alwyn Talbot, published by Kult Creations.)
The story follows the setting up of a super-powered US military team – The Armageddon Patrol – created by the US military top brass for special missions in Vietnam. It’s leader is Maiden America, military through and through, an army brat (it’s in her blood), and she’s the perfect figurehead for the team, bedecked in a US flag and hot pants – moral boosting and super-powered as a result of over-exposure to US nuclear testing.
The rest of the team are found in the second episode, as we take a wander through various top secret US military hospitals and psych wings for the various mutated casualties who’ll form the team. There’s even an alien robot brought into the team. Subtle, this is not.
But do you really necessarily want subtle for something of this ilk? It’s created to be a fairly intelligent action series about the Vietnam war. And on that simple level it does work.
All the interesting stuff happens quite a way in, once Maiden America and her team are in country. What has been a fairly straight forward meet the team, test the team, deploy the team book gets an interesting turn as Maiden America uncovers a secret CIA drug distribution operation.
It’s her response to this, in true servant to the flag style that really brings it home what Short is trying to accomplish here – Maiden America is a female Judge Dredd – a loyal and unquestioning servant to her masters. There’s counter culture rebellion all around her, even on her own team, but she’s the one staying true to the mission, unquestioning and accepting – no matter how ridiculous and twisted that becomes.
And it’s this contradiction – the loyal, unquestioning servant amidst the chaos of a very unjust and often ridiculous war that drives the book in the end.
(Maiden America’s simple and unquestioning belief that the US is right – even when faced with something so obviously wrong. From Armageddon Patrol Book 1, by John A. Short, art bt Alex Paterson, published by Kult Creations.)
The final episode is the finest of the book, where we look in on the Armageddon Patrol from the point of view of a patrol of normal grunts who find themselves tagging along with the Patrol deep in enemy territory. It’s only here where the book really finds it’s feet – as the comparisons between the gung-ho Maiden America and the normal, drafted and desperate to simply get through their tour alive grunts are fully realised.
The story up until this point had been attempting to make the comparison, but it had never truly worked. Finally, using this little patrol of regular joes, it all comes good. The Armageddon Patrol are pushed somewhat to he background and we focus on the reactions of the normal soldiers – the potential collateral damage in the war Maiden America sometimes seems to be fighting on her own.
(The final episode in book 1, and as the attention shifts from the Patrol to the normal, very mortal soldiers around them, my interest was piqued. From Armageddon Patrol Book 1, by John A. Short, art bt Alwyn Talbot, published by Kult Creations.)
Underneath a very impressive Vince Danks cover, the artwork, by Alwyn Talbot and Alex Paterson, is a troublesome affair. There are 4 stories here, 3 by Talbot and one by Paterson. Both artists are heavily influenced by others in their styles. Talbot’s open, near shadowless work reminds me of the Geof Darrow, Seth Fisher look, whilst Paterson’s is firmly rooted in the Steve Pugh, John Hicklenton, Simon Bisley style.
Neither are particularly consistent, especially Talbot’s earliest pages that are occasionally painful to look at, but both artists eventually do their jobs well enough. With only one episode, there’s not that much to say of Paterson, except that his influences are blatantly obvious and his work is good enough. But Talbot, with three episodes, shows a real progression, and by that final episode it’s all starting to look a lot better and I’d be happy to see more of his work.
And although Armageddon Patrol doesn’t really break any new ground and it has it’s faults, there’s a satisfaction at the end and an interest in finding out what happened next – certainly not a bad thing at all. As a piece of entertaining hokum it’s enjoyable stuff and whilst, overall, it’s not going to revolutionise anything, it’s a fairly above average book with occasional flashes of something that make it worth revisiting at some point.
Armageddon Patrol is available from Kult Creations at their blog.