Admit it, if you hear title “Star Spangled War Stories featuring G.I. Zombie,” you’re probably going to wince a little bit. Especially given the track record DC’s had trying to push war books in the “New 52.” Still, the writing team is Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, who usually warrant a look and you’ve got Scott Hampton on the art, who doesn’t pop up as often as he should. The result is a book that feels a lot more Vertigo than “New 52.” (Why are they still calling it “New 52,” when there aren’t 52 titles these days? GET OVER IT, DC.)
Actually, it isn’t at all clear from the first issue why this comic is titled “Star Spangled War Stories.” There’s not much war in it, so far. Oh, you’ve got soldiers and ex-soldiers. You’ve got some military weapons floating around. It’s more a crime comic with some espionage overtones than a war comic, though. Perhaps what will change, but the title creates some false expectations of the first issue. The pacing here is from the slow burn school, so if you’re fearing spoilers, best to move on to the next article. Since we don’t know entirely what’s going on, I’m going to have to deal with the plot a bit more directly than I might like to.
So basically, we find our hero, designated “G.I. Zombie” on an undercover mission with a partner, who might be a soldier of fortune and might be a Department of Defense agent. At any rate she’s been assigned a mission by the D.O.D. and she’s infiltrating an outlaw biker gang as they look for some stolen rifles, one of which was used in a military base shooting.
G.I. Zombie, given name Jared, isn’t your run of the mill zombie. He’s the “thinks and talks normally” variety of zombie. He’s also a lot more indestructible than your Walking Dead variety zombie. He can take a head shot and his limbs will reattach. It looks like he might have some compulsory feeding habits and control issues thereof, and we’re not entirely sure how long he’s been around. The Darwyn Cooke cover would suggest at least a couple hundred years.
As far as first issues go, this is a bare bones (pun intended) character setup and just slightly more into the mission. The largest segment of the book is the opening sequence with the biker bar and a bloody interrogation. Another case where you’d really like to have seen a double-sized issue so once the plot got setup, it could start moving and you could get some idea where the book was going.
Now, slow moving plots and taking time to set up some character bits, or in this case, mysteries surrounding characters is not an inherently bad thing. The atmosphere works, striking a balance between the realism school normally used for a crime caper and a “6 inches into the unknown” horror comic. Both elements co-exist nicely and I had no sudden suspension of disbelief issues. The middle section reads not unlike a police procedural and then there’s what you might call a “zombie moment.” It works.
The art is also lovely and with Hampton doing his own coloring has a very distinctive look you’re not likely to mistake for anything else DC is putting out right now.
All and all, a nice package. The thing is, I have absolutely no idea where this comic is going. Will it stay on the bikers with stolen military hardware angle, that just happens to have an undead operative in it? Will it jog right into more horror? Will it job left into espionage? (Quite possible with the last page.) Are we going to start having battlefield scenes? I really don’t know.
Let’s call this one to keep an eye on. It’s absolutely not the kind of schlocky book you might expect from something called “Star Spangled War featuring G.I. Zombie.” I’m just not completely sure what it’s going to end up being. Hopefully, it doesn’t dive head first into a crossover.
Tentative recommendation to check out if you like crime stories or VERY grounded horror. Moreso if your tastes run Vertigo.