Man of war.

*New column is up - a sequel-in-spirit to my third-ever column, regarding the magic of the back-issue bins. Some bits of culture refuse to leave us, and maybe they can evolve along with our own collective comics experience. Check it out.

*Invincible Dept: But seriously, who needs superhero comics when you can follow the real-life adventures of filmmaker Werner Herzog? Not only did he direct my favorite film of 2005, Grizzly Man, but apparently just last week he pulled actor Joaquin Phoenix out of a twisted wreck when the Oscar nominee flipped his car in Hollywood. “There’s something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog’s voice,” remarked Phoenix, recalling how the director (who maintains a residence near the crash site) poked his head into the upturned vehicle and told him to relax. “I felt completely fine and safe. I climbed out. I got out of the car and I said, 'Thank you,' and he was gone.”

Well of course! There’s probably plenty of peace to keep down at Arkham’s California branch. This comes hot on the heels of a recent Grizzly Man interview, during which Herzog was apparently shot by a sniper, who was wielding an air-rifle. Reportedly, Herzog demanded to continue the interview in another, more secure location, and completed the chat whilst bleeding from the hip area.

Somehow, I don’t think that Oscar snub hurt him very much.

Fury: Peacemaker #1 (of 6)

Now this is more like it. No, I’m not really talking about writer Garth Ennis’ recent Marvel works, though this stuff is a good bit superior to The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin or that one issue of Ghost Rider I managed to read. One might be tempted to claim that Ennis here is writing in a ‘safe zone,’ falling back on war stories - but then again, it’s not like that recent Kev book was horrendously far removed from some typical tropes of the Ennis canon, and that didn’t work out very well at all. War story or not, this book has energy and drive to burn. But still, that’s not what I was talking about.

What I mean is that, as a first issue, this particular pamphlet offers up a nice, relatively clean opening volley of story, that doesn’t feels as if the work is being prepped for padding. Essentially, this issue serves as a prelude, with the titular Sgt. Nick proving himself in battle in the Tunisia of 1943, while everyone else either breaks down or dies horribly. It’s an issue-length battle scene, moving ever-forward while certain specific events (the presence of a cowardly Lieutenant, the production of a rocket launcher) trigger brief, color-washed flashbacks that fill in all necessary back-story. It’s beautifully intuitive, the misplaced arrogance and bravado of Fury’s comrades in these faded memory snatches constantly contrasted with the full-color (and thus more ‘real world’) events of the actual battle. Pacing is maintained, all information gets out, and ultimately the issue wraps up in a climactic fashion that sets up the rest of the series while imbuing what we’ve already seen with a sense of importance. Just lovely.

This isn’t a Marvel MAX book (indeed, nothing save for Ennis’ ever-reliable The Punisher is these days), though there’s remarkably little sacrificed in the area of combat immediacy; upon direct comparison with Ennis and penciler Darick Robertson’s similarly-conceived The Punisher: Born, one can detect a certain level of restraint present here, though this isn’t easy to see when the newer work is read alone, which is what perhaps truly matters. And there’s no profanity in this one, of course, which does lead to some odd moments - soldiers are having entire sides of their bodies being torn away by enemy fire on panel, but god forbid somebody say ‘fuck’ over it (then again, profanity is always an odd thing in pamphlet-format comics - I’m reminded of those midpoint issues of Promethea, where most restrictions on nudity and violence had long since dropped away, and the book was being devoted to a lengthy examination of various levels of mystical perception, yet they still felt the need to obscure the word ‘shit’). Still, this is a surprisingly direct depiction of futile gunfights, and the Earth being scorched by man’s inventions and machinations. It makes one curious as to where Ennis is planning to take the book, playing this well-known property in a way he’s been played before, but not by this particular player.

Robertson and inker Jimmy Palmiotti provide appropriate visuals, the loosely sketched-out forms of soldiers caught in close-up explosions (not to mention the limber, hesitant frame of Fury climbing out from his safe spot after the battle) carry whispers of Harvey Kurtzman’s seminal war comics, which also sometimes plunged the reader into the heat of battle, with little comment beyond the simple presentation of what is necessary for survival in such a place. There’s still five issues to go, and plenty of story to tell, but this team is off to a promising start.