Writer: Ales Kot
Artists: Luca Casalanguida, Heather Moore
Back in July, I got the opportunity to read the first issue of Image’s new “Lost Soldiers” series. I wasn’t expecting too much. I’ve seen war and its effects portrayed in numerous forms of media before so I expected more of the same. That first issue of “Lost Soldiers” blew me away though. The art and the handling of these themes about age, the horrors of war, and PTSD were simply amazing. I was so impressed that it became my pick for the best comic of the month. Now the second issue has been released and I’m curious to see how it’ll compare to the debut issue.
The issue is fairly quiet. Its predecessor featured a lot of action, mainly in the flashbacks. This issue has almost none and it’s not a bad thing. Kot mainly focuses on character development as Hawkins and Kowalski travel to Juarez. We’re shown further flashbacks to the Vietnam war in order to accomplish this. In these flashbacks, Kowalski becomes ill to the point of becoming delusional and he ends up in a medical tent. Meanwhile, in the modern-day, Kowalski and Hawkins arrive in Mexico for their mission.
This issue spends a fair bit of time building up the friendship between these two soldiers. That’s not the sole focus of the issue though. Burke, the soldier that the two had been in conflict with during Vietnam is built up throughout the issue. We’d seen him as uncaring and violent in the previous issue. This one implies he has a petty side through the wartime segments. We’re also shown that Kowalski and Hawkins still have strong negative feelings towards Burke in the modern-day moments. It really highlights the trauma he must’ve inflicted on both men. You get the sense that Burke will be the main villain for this series. Kot backs that idea up even more with redacted documents at the end that seem to reference Burke’s villainous behaviour. The document portion of the comic surprised me. It’s a creative way to give us an idea of Burke’s recent behaviour since he’d only appeared in flashbacks previously.
The art continues to be gorgeous. We get the stunningly realistic artwork from the last issue as well as great usage of lighting and mise-en-scene. A constant spotlight is on the cars throughout the issue as they travel to Mexico. It’s provided by the headlights of this small group of vehicles. Mixed with the darkened backgrounds in most panels this draws attention to this tiny group of cars. Alongside the lifeless streets and empty roads they travel through this also reminds us of how isolated these men are. Eventually when Hawkins, Kowalski, and their crew arrive the spotlight is still on them but it’s expanded. We’re shown how heavily outnumbered they are by the larger number of cars the group they’re dealing with has. It’s a great way to build up Hawkins and Kowalski as underdogs.
Lighting continues to play a key role in how Burke is portrayed. Whenever he appears in the issue there’s often a light behind him. The light is used to not only conceal his features but to give him an almost inhuman, demonic look. This continues throughout the modern-day section when he’s seen by Kowalski. The light slowly moves away as Kowalski and Hawkins begin to recognise the man from their past.
Lettering is fairly simple throughout the issue. We get the usual bold lettering to draw attention to certain words and phrases. On some occasions, this is mixed with increasing text size to show panic in a character’s voice. We’re given slightly different speech bubbles at times too. These are mainly used when Kowalski becomes ill. Kowalski’s speech bubbles become misshapen and crooked to show his sickness. Meanwhile, Hawkins’ bubbles become spiked in order to show the urgency in his voice as he screams for a medic. They’re some nice touches that help underline the seriousness of the situation. The narration boxes are coloured yellow which is meant to catch the reader’s eye. It works in some places, especially against darker backgrounds. Sometimes the boxes are positioned in front of lights or the similarly-colored medical tent though and it lessens the effect.
Overall, this is a great issue. It’s not got much in the way of action but Kot, Casalanguida, and Moore more than makeup for that. The writing and character development of the series continues to be brilliantly done and the artwork is extremely impressive. I really enjoyed this issue and it left me chomping at the bit to see what happens next. If you’re not reading “Lost Soldiers” then you really should. This has been one of the best comics I’ve read this year so far.
Lost Soldiers #2
This is another great issue of Lost Soldiers. It's not as action-oriented as the first but it does a fine job at developing the main characters and the conflict between them while continuing the story of these old soldiers taking a mission in Mexico. The art continues to be not only beautiful but inventive as I've gone into detail on in the main review. The lettering is solid throughout as well. Overall, another great book in the series and I highly recommend it.