Comic: "Unknown Soldier #1"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
Plot: An Ugandan doctor has recurring violent dreams and visions. After being assaulted by a pair of rebel soldiers, he blacks out and kills one of them with a level of violent skill he does not knowingly possess. As voices fill his head he lashes out against himself in a disturbing way, hoping to drive the darkness away with pain.
Review: The brutal realism of this book sucked me in right off the bat and really sparked my interest in this story, the roots of which draw from real events that have taken place in Uganda since the reign of dictator Idi Amin. Sure, this is a fictionalized account, but the attention and care to detail, as well as the author's article stating that he's visited Uganda to personally do research give serious weight to the issues this book promises to tackle. When the first two issues of the series draw acclaim from the likes of Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis, you know that you're striking some kind of chord worth striking. Already this book has got me more interested in doing my own personal research on what's going on in Uganda, so in that the writer has clearly scored a victory.
In only one issue Joshua Dysart has managed to pack in a wealth of information about the Ugandan political climate, its recent history, as well as the general feel of what it must be like to live in such a violent, chaotic place as its northern regions. In addition to this, he seems to have a good handle on his characters, skillfully conveying a sense that they are real people, even as our main character, Moses Lwanga, clearly doesn't know a few vital things about himself. I'll admit to being a bit baffled by Moses's actions at the end of the book, but it was a crazy situation that warrants some kind of crazy response, and there may be cultural factors informing his decision as well that I'm not familiar with as of yet. I say "as of yet" because Dysart seems intent on capturing and conveying at much of that information as he, also an outsider, is capable. And I trust him as a writer to do so after such a strong first outing.
The art by Alberto Ponticelli is loose, almost sketchy, and perfectly suited to a book that promises the kind of chaos and violence delivered by this first issue. This is hardly DC's first version of the Unknown Soldier, but this new Vertigo iteration is so far proving to be a rather unique take. Time will tell if Dysart and Ponticelli can keep the momentum of this story going strong (and the story has several possible directions, some of which could be disappointing), but they've certainly stampeded out the gate at full speed. If you're looking for a new Vertigo book to check out and you've enjoyed stuff like Preacher, 100 Bullets, or particularly Scalped, this is one you'll definitely want to take a look at, and there are only two issues out, so this is the perfect time to hop on board.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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