Into the back issue box #43
Based on this comic, I think this Joe Kubert fellow just might have a future in this business. Call me crazy!
As always, I must link to the ground rules!
Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #6 (of 6) by Joe Kubert (writer/artist/colorist) and Pete Carlsson (colorist). Published by DC, August 2006.
I’ve been reading the Sgt. Rock comics from the 1960s, so it was interesting reading some from 40 years on. Kubert’s art is as solid as ever, and there’s a change in writing style from Kanigher to Kubert. As this is the final issue of a six-issue mini-series, it should wrap things up, right? But does it do a good job sucking us in and making us want to head back out into the comic book universe?
We begin with an odd dream. In a nine-panel grid, someone narrates that he was brought to a brave knight who would take him to a land of deliverance. The “knight” is Sgt. Rock himself, we can surmise, and the knights are fighting “dragons” and “a devil in human form,” meaning Hitler (see above). We learn that Rock was captured and tortured, and that a baby somehow factors into the story (there’s no baby in this issue, so I don’t know if the baby is metaphorical or not). Then “David” (the dreamer) is woken up. There’s your recap, fools!
Rock tells him that they’re near Riga. Rock is in Latvia? What the heck? Riga is burning, and Rock says it’s because the Germans and Russians have occupied it at different times during the war. We learn that they have to get to St. Peter’s Church “inna old town” for a pick-up. They’ll have to cross the frozen Daugava River to get there, because the bridge has been destroyed. Dang!
We also learn that Rock is the sergeant of Easy Company as they cross the river, and if you think crossing a frozen river in a work of fiction is dangerous, well, you’ve read fiction before! The ice cracks under David, and one of Rock’s soldiers dives in a gets him. Rock asks him if his prayers are being listened to, and David assures him that God listens. As they head toward Riga, a snowstorm kicks up. Rock wants to “hunker down,” but David sees visions of Jews being herded into trains, getting on ships but being turned away from supposedly friendly nations, and millions dying in ovens. David says he must tell the world of this “prophecy.” They make it into Riga, which seems deserted, but the preternatural Rock knows that the Ratzis are watching! He chucks a grenade (unfortunately, there’s only one mention in this book of “eggs” about the “hatch” or “fiery pineapples” or any of the other fun euphemisms Kanigher used in DC’s war comics, but one mention is better than none!) and blows them to smithereens, but they know their cover is blown! Oh dear.
So the book begins its cat-and-mouse phase. Rock once again senses that the Germans are targeting them, and they dive into a house. A Nazi tells them that if they surrender, they’ll live “as prisoners of war.” He only wants “the Jew boy.” This Nazi has never heard of Rock, apparently, because Easy don’t quit! The Nazis throw a bunch of grenades (potato mashers, another great name) into the house, but Easy manages to get up the stairs before they explode. They begin to cross the rooftops toward the church as the Nazis shoot at them. They get down into a different house and leave behind some grenades, which the stupid Nazis overlook, getting blown up in the process. Stupid Nazis! They reach the church, where a dying Nazi is about to shoot David when a bunch of rubble collapses on him. Finally, they reach the church tower, where David asks if Rock and Easy are coming with him. Rock, like the rock he is, says, “There’s a little thing like a war that’s coming up this way from Italy. Me and Easy’re gonna be here to greet our buddies … an’ give ‘em a hand.” Okay, beside his lack of basic geography knowledge (Easy is going to wait in Latvia for the Allies to fight up from Italy, across the Alps, and all the way through Germany just to get to them?), that’s the Rock we love! The book ends with David flying away safely and Easy Company headed out for another battle in their endless war.
First, we have to ask if this is a successful comic book in terms of story. Well, as the end of a story, it’s fairly anticlimactic. We have no idea what David’s prophecy actually is, after all. I mean, it’s obvious that it’s about the Holocaust, and that’s certainly fine, but it seems like this is somewhat late in the war (Kubert doesn’t give us a date in this issue, and I don’t know if he did earlier in the series, but the fact that Riga has changed hands several times and that the invasion of Italy has begun indicates it’s a bit later in the war), and it’s not like people didn’t realize what was happening to the Jews in Germany by then. Maybe not the extent of the Holocaust, but what’s David going to tell anyone that will make any difference? Everyone was already at war with Germany anyway. That’s a strange hole in this story. I think the story would have been better served by an antagonist, too, as the action in this issue, although solid, feels fairly standard and even easy, by Easy Company standards. Maybe there was a big fight earlier in the book, but it seems odd to end the book without a bigger battle.
As a single issue, it works fine, as Kubert lets us know who the characters are (it’s really just Rock and David, but Kubert does a good job with them) and what’s going on. I’m not really sure how well it gets us to want to buy the rest of the series. If this happened to be your first comic book, you might want to get more comics in general, but this doesn’t seem interesting enough to warrant going back and getting the first five issues. As I pointed out, there’s no antagonist. Even if you knew he died (as he probably would have, being a stinkin’ Nazi and all), if there had been an interesting antagonist, you might have wanted to go back and see what the deal was with him. But because it looks like this is just Easy accompanying David across hostile territory, it doesn’t feel like a “must-read.” I certainly wouldn’t mind knowing what happens in the previous five issues, but I don’t feel like I have to find out.
What this comic would probably do is make people find other comics. Kubert is a master at work, and he tells a story wonderfully through his art. There could probably be half the amount of words in this comic and it would work just as well. His soldiers are beaten-up veterans, his Nazis are stereotypically ugly (I don’t have too much of a problem with that, it’s just worth mentioning), and his action scenes are dynamic. Someone reading this as their first comic would be introduced to one of the greats of the industry, and if they started reading comics by tracking down books drawn by Kubert, they could do a lot worse with a collection. The dude should start a school on how to draw or something.
This is, weirdly enough, a single issue that doesn’t work too well as a final issue of a mini-series, but does a good job telling a story and also is the kind of comic that could easily draw people into the medium. That’s due to Kubert’s wonderful art, of course, so although it’s not a great comic, it’s a great example of what you can do in the medium.
Let’s hope this Joe Kubert gets more work. You really should check him out.