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Thursday, June 16, 2011 

This indie book sounds tasteless

There's a new indie comic book coming out - a horror thriller, apparently - called "Graveyard of Empires" and it sounds like morally equivalent idiocy set in Afghanistan:
On sale now from Image Comics is Graveyard of Empires #1, the 32-page first chapter of a new limited series set against the war in Afghanistan. Created by Mark Sable (Unthinkable) and Paul Azaceta (Amazing Spider-Man, B.P.R.D.: 1946), the story is a prodigiously researched and unflinchingly violent depiction of what life is really like for American troops in this 10th year of war in Afghanistan, but with one critical difference: zombies, an undead threat that forces the Marines and the Taliban to work together to stop a common enemy.
What?!? I'm sorry, but I think there's a fine line to be drawn in the sand, and I wouldn't be surprised if the US army in real life would frown upon this premise. Especially the Navy Seals who conducted the successful raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan. Why, even the timing isn't good, coming several weeks after the Taliban tyrant was finished off and sent to hell.

The writer, Sable, said that:
Part of the reason Paul and I awe so passionate about this comic is that there is a real dearth of war comics, particularly those covering modern conflicts. That's surprising for a number reasons. One, comics has an amazing tradition of dealing with war, from Captain America to Blazing Combat and beyond. Because of how quickly and cheaply comics are produced, they can deal with war in real time, and bring an immediacy that no other fictional medium can.

The lack of modern war comics even more disturbing because we're in two (or more) wars right now. I suppose that reflects a broader cultural problem - so few are asked to sacrifice that moat of us don't feel the pain that war brings.

What's been nice about the reaction to the book so far is that there does seem to be a hunger for this type of book. Even the criticism so far has been from those who were expecting a straight war comic, rather than a military/horror conflict. Out of 32 pages in the first issue, only a couple deal with zombies.
His statement obscures a more challenging question - whether critics were turned off by the notion that the US military and the Taliban would work together against even a science-fiction enemy.

The following paragraph says:
The zombie element of Graveyard of Empires sneaks up on the reader in a startling fashion not unlike the way vampires suddenly appear in the middle of the film From Dusk 'Till Dawn. Prior to their arrival, Sable and Azaceta spend a great deal of time developing the grim setting and violent characters that populate both sides of the war. Among them, a new commanding officer whose hopes of endearing himself to his entrenched troops are slim-to-none; an opium-abusing Explosive Ordinance Disposal specialist, driven to drugs by the stress of dismantling bombs; a treacherous Afghan cop; a mutinous American sniper; a Female Engagement Officer whose job is to work with the grotesquely oppressed women of Afghanistan; and an Afghan surgeon forced by the Taliban to implant bombs inside of people. It's after we get these people that Sable lowers the zombie boom on them.
So let's see if I have this right: they acknowledge/allude to Afghanistan's Islamic shariah oppression of women (or do they?), but damage all that with ridiculous ideas like a drug-addicted bomb-disarmer, and a US sniper who's mutinous, which could mean he's willing to desert. And then Sable's own press comment continues with:
While there will be more horror in the next few issues, we don't plan on losing sight of the very real people on both sides of the conflict. As a plot device, zombies serve to do something that would otherwise be inconceivable - force US Marines and Taliban to cooperate against a common threat. Metaphorically, the zombies represent a force not unlike the Taliban. A foe with inscrutable motives that doesn't seem to need to eat or sleep, and no matter how many you kill...they just keep coming.

We hope the horror aspect will tempt readers who might not otherwise try a war book, while fans of military fiction will finally find the comic they've been waiting for.
Whether fans of horror thrillers would try a war book, I don't think fans of army fiction are going to appreciate the idea of the US army and the Taliban working together, no matter how bad those zombies are in comparison with the Taliban. Mainly because, as seen in that panel on the side, the zombie there appears to be spawned out of a dead US soldier. And even if there's some zombies turning up spawned from the stiffs of Taliban terrorists, it doesn't counteract the bad taste left by the idea of the good guys teaming up with the terrorists. Certainly not after the amazing victory achieved in the past month.

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