Relevant, even though you may not want it to be
Unknown Soldier #5
by Joshua Dysart & Alberto Ponticelli
I'm going to admit that I don't know everything. Yes, I know, it's hard to believe. Take a deep breath and regain your composure.
You good? Cool, let's continue. So I don't know everything, but I do know a little bit about a lot of things. And, of course, I know a ton about comics. But I'm not as well-versed in everything that I feel I should know more about - specifically, the conflicts that are going on around the world. I like to see myself as a somewhat enlightened, modern thinker. I know about some of the world's problems, like malaria and AIDS and famine and lack of potable water and why Flavor of Love on VH1 is so successful. And I know that pretty much the entire continent of Africa is in perpetual war, but I don't know the specifics of it. Africa is a large part of the world, and millions of people are suffering over there, and I'm painfully unaware of what's really happening.
I feel a little bit bad about that, but only to an extent. Yes, I could take it upon myself to research the reasons behind the warfare and which tribes are currently in power and who's opposing them and all of that. But I'm not particularly motivated to do so, because it's not on the forefront of my mind. American media rarely deliver news from that part of the world. They've been covering stuff here, like the downturned economy, the release of the Kindle 2, Chris Brown and Rihanna, and Octo-Mom. With such hard-hitting headlines, my priorities get mixed up.
Luckily, I have a book like Unknown Soldier to come along every once in a while. The concept of the Unknown Soldier has been around DC Comics since the '60s. The name comes from The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Soldier is basically a guy who is so disfigured that he's no longer recognizable, but continues to fight for his cause. In early incarnations of the book, the soldier was a secret agent who could assume any identity with masks and such.
This new series is a bit of a departure from that, but retains the fundamental aspects of the character. Instead of being in the US, or even at a theater of battle involving US troops, it's set in Africa. Instead of starting as a soldier, our main character, Moses "Patrick" Lwanga, is a doctor on a philanthropic mission. While trying to keep the peace, he gets severely mangled (and I mean severely - they take off his bandages in this issue, and this dude is jacked!) and left for dead.
The title is written by Joshua Dysart, who I remember from his recent run on Swamp Thing. A reliable source might have told me that Dysart may have perhaps perchance been imbibing certain substances while he was working on that title, which explain why it was so... alternative. This book is an entirely different kind of work, more reminiscent of his early book, Violent Messiahs.
The entire thing is very visceral. The story that Dysart is telling, along with Ponticelli's very moody art style is very grounding. Reading this book, I care far less about things like Octo-Mom and the failure of the Blackberry Storm as an iPhone killer. Books like this can sometimes turn off readers because it's a tough topic to approach. But sometimes we need books like this. One of the first steps to bring about change is to spread awareness, and Dysart is definitely doing that here. Granted, he sometimes does so with decapitation, but don't hold that against him.
Who should read this book:
People who can appreciate literary depictions of human conflict.
People who wish they could help to alleviate the world's problems.
People who want to explain the future to someone from the past.
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