Review: SUPER SOLDIERS: A SALUTE TO THE COMIC BOOK HEROES AND VILLAINS WHO FOUGHT FOR THEIR COUNTRY
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain comic book content]
Author: Jason Inman
Publisher: Mango Publishing
Reviewed by: Seth Singleton
How many superheroes served in the military before they pulled on a cape, tights, or a mask? The answer might surprise you. In, Super Soldiers: A Salute to the Comic Book Heroes and Villains Who Fought For Their Country, Jason Inman digs into the layers of comic book lore to identify the many characters that have served and continue to serve in our armed forces.
The former host of DC All Access begins this project by pointing to his own time in the U.S. Army and the challenge of fighting off the real enemy in the field — boredom. During breaks or while awaiting new orders was the perfect time to read comic books. They allowed Inman to return to the superhero characters and ideals they represented that he had learned to love as a child.
When he returned home, Inman could not shake the interest that was growing about comic books and the men and women he had served with. And then he started researching and writing. The first chapter focuses on the most recognizable and well-documented super soldier by taking a close look at Captain America and Captain Marvel.
Sandwiched between these two marvels is the story of Gravedigger and the chance to learn about an unsung war hero. Ulysses Hazard is an African American soldier during World War II fighting for the chance to prove his worth in combat. Gravedigger must overcome the stereotypes and prejudices of his time before he is finally able to stand next to luminous legends like Sgt. Rock as an equal on the battlefield.
I love the part of the story where Ulysses fights his way past every soldier guarding the Pentagon until he is face to face with the Secretary of Defense. Ulysses drops the grenade in his hand on the desk. He first challenges the secretary to find someone better suited to serve in the field. Ulysses then points out that not a single soldier was killed. He is rewarded with a new assignment under the codename Gravedigger.
Inman measures each character against the military code of the branch that they serve in. Sgt. Rock and Green Lantern John Stewart were marines and Captain Atom was in the Air Force. The code for each is different, but all ask almost superhuman ability on the part of those who agree to live up to it.
Stewart is an interesting story about what happens when a character is suddenly given a military backstory that changes the character’s personality. Stewart’s first origin told his story as an architect. Then one episode of Justice League states that he knows Rex Mason AKA Metamorpho from their days together in the Marines and suddenly his character is no longer the same.
Super Soldiers does not shy away from the darker side of service and the villains it can create. An analysis of Frank Miller’s character Nuke reveals the danger of misinterpreting patriotism. This nemesis of Daredevil touts the values of patriotism and protecting others, but he uses national pride to violently attack.
Slade Wilson is a soldier-turned-mercenary who operates under the name Deathstroke The Terminator. Impatience and selfish desire were his motivations to rise through the military’s ranks. His quest for more cost Slade his career, his family, and eventually his life. His failure to follow the military code as a soldier led to his continued misfortune.
There are so many great characters with military service records. My only complaint is that I would love to see more of my favorite characters like The Unknown Soldier.
Jason Inman blends a perfect match of research and great characters in Super Soldiers. His ability to draw out the shining details of legendary characters who served their country with pride, illuminates a proud tradition of service that deserves our recognition.