War comics of the sort that chronicled our boys fighting Hitler’s minions in WWII were pretty much dead and gone by the time the Vietnam War ended. Sure, Marvel still gets a lot of mileage out of Nick Fury, but it’s always in his latter-day incarnation as head of the high-tech spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D., never as the hard-bitten soldier who led the Howling Commandos. Over at DC, Sgt. Rock, the crew-cut commander of Easy Company, has long languished in an even more complete obscurity. Until now.
On paper, this must have looked like a swell idea: Bring Rock back, have a hot writer handle the script, and get a Golden Age artist to lend that nostalgic touch. The result is ”Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and a Hard Place,” a 144-page graphic novel written by Brian Azzarello (”100 Bullets”) and drawn by veteran ”Sgt. Rock” penciller Joe Kubert. The story is a sort-of whodunit, revolving around the question of who killed three Germans while they were in Easy Company’s custody. Before the answer is revealed, there’s lots of philosophizing, running, shooting, and dying.
Odd thing is, while one might expect that Azzarello would have taken advantage of the permissive vibe at DC’s Vertigo imprint and upped the carnage quotient, the tale he tells could easily have run almost exactly as is 40 years ago. Factor in the classic look of Kubert’s art and you’ve essentially got a newly minted, really long issue of ”Sgt. Rock,” circa 1965. Understand, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s refreshing to find a creator who doesn’t feel compelled to reinvent the wheel for the sake of it. But since back issues of ”Rock” and ”Fury” are some of the cheapest vintage comics you can buy, you just may want to start there before shelling out 25 bucks for ”Hell.”