Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Armageddon Patrol  Book One from Kult Creations

Back in November of last year we posted a 3-part Publisher Spotlight focusing on Kult Creations and publisher John A. Short - as well as a few words from John himself we reviewed two of Kult Creations titles: Cross and The Sixpenny Murder.

Continuing our focus on Kult Creations we turn our attention this time to a collected edition of another of their popular titles - Armageddon Patrol, reviewed by our friend and regular contributor to Escape from Tomorrow Simon Breeze.

Armageddon Patrol - Book One

Being not quite old enough to have followed the Vietnam war in the news and current events of the time but old enough to be part of the 'Vietnam film' generation that followed it a few years later I was quite excited to pick up a copy of Armageddon Patrol – Book One published by Kult Creations.

I think it must come from being part of the generation that, having spent countless hours of my school holidays watching classic films such as Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Hamburger Hill, not to mention the Rambo series of films, fostered an obsessive interest in such a horrific conflict that has stuck with me until this day: Hollywood glamorised it!

The second thing that peeked my interest with Armageddon Patrol was the inclusion of 'superheroes' in the Vietnam war. Again, as with the war, superheroes are something that have been with me throughout my life with my love of comic books. To me, it sounded like a match made in heaven, and a quick look at the awesome Vincent Danks cover put the cherry on the creamy cover cake. So I guess the question is, can you have your cake and eat it? In the case of Armageddon Patrol – Yes you can!

A mistake not to make with Armageddon Patrol is to confuse it with something like Watchmen and the way that the story about them tackled superheroes being involved in the Vietnam war. John A. Short takes a different - unique - approach, the best way I can think to describe it is 'Platoon meets the X-Men'. Armageddon Patrol is ultimately about people, it takes on the Vietnam war at a 'grunt' level, where as Watchmen is very much at a 'super man' level.

The four stories included with the collected edition (issues #1 to #4 of the comic) follow 'from creation of' to 'seeing action': a team of super-powered misfits under the leadership of the comics main cigar-chomping character Maiden America. For the most part each of the character's powers comes from a mutation (apart from one who is a huge robot) and so it doesn't necessary mean that they wanted the powers, or for that matter want to fight in the war. This makes for some great dynamics amongst the characters and really drives the story along at an enjoyable pace during and between the action.

Action, yes there is plenty and it pulls no punches either, and I would say this is also reflective of the language used throughout the story-telling too. However, I will add this, it is a story about a very bloody and demoralising conflict that saw horrific casualties on both sides and John A. Short's writing and Alwyn Talbot and Alex Paterson art reflect this very well.

John A. Short's writing is, as always, superb. Having read (and re-read) several comic titles that he has penned now I can say that his style of story telling and use of dialogue is always of a high standard and is always adaptive to the titles needs. I guess what I am trying to say is that John A. Short is an excellent all-round writer and I have come to expect this from his work and with Armageddon Patrol, he does not fail to live up to my expectation.

The page artwork is produced by two artists, Alwyn Talbot taking three of the four stories (#1, #2 & #4) and Alex Paterson (#3). Although the artists have varied styles they are not too dissimilar, and due to the way the stories are written, there is no 'jarring' from one artist to the next, which can happen from time to time when there is more than one artist working on a title.

There are several things I particularly enjoyed, very much liked and appreciated about the artwork, one of the main things being the use of black and white illustration which works really well with the story telling. It took me back to being a kid and reading old comics around the era this one is set in. The detail is eye-watering in some panels too, I hate to think how many hours would have been spent illustrating some of these pages. It looks like it will have been a real labour of love from the artists that has really paid off.

The art sets the mood fantastically, there are some pages where you can feel the prickly heat of the jungle on you back, hear the wop-wop-wop of the rotor blades, smell the fuel burning and hear a ghostly voice and guitar rifting of Jimmy Hendrix performing 'All Along the Watchtower' as you follow the team in their helicopter over the jungles. In the action scenes you can sense the bullets whizzing through the jungle, clipping leaves and narrowly missing. And when they don't, boy, it is just like watching those old Vietnam films as a kid, dismembered bodies, bloody explosions, screaming and shouting and general chaos.

I really enjoyed Armageddon Patrol, it checks a lot of boxes for me as a comic read and I could easily see it sitting alongside the other titles on my pull list as a monthly read (not that it is at this time a monthly publication, but you get my point). As I have mentioned, overall the comic has a Platoon meets the X-Men feel to it, and if that doesn't sell it to you, I don't know what will.

I give Armageddon Patrol a cigar chomping five out of five, a fantastic example of brilliant comic-book storytelling.

Armageddon Patrol - Book One
Written by John A. Short, art by Alwyn Talbot and Alex Paterson, cover by Vincent Danks and Craig John
Published by: Kult Creations

Many thanks to Simon Breeze for another fantastic and enjoyable review - I think it's fair to say he enjoyed it every bit as much as I did.

You can check-out Kult Creations range of titles over at their website - where you'll also be able to view bonus material such as concept sketches and promotional artwork. If you are heading to the Cardiff International Comic Expo this weekend, or the Bristol International Comic & Small Press Expo in May, then make sure you stop by the Kult Creations booth where, I know from my own enjoyable experience, John will be glad to talk with you about comics.