Sgt. Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place #2 (Vertigo Resurrected) – Brian Azzarello & Joe Kubert

Sgt. Rock Between Hell & A Hard Place 2This concluding part continues the great work established in the first book. Things do get more complex, as just when you are thinking the Germans were nothing more than faceless uniforms they start to talk. Things do get a bit Noir and then more philosophical than you were expecting which does disorientate you a bit.

Comics are filled with violence and even death but there is something about a war comic that makes the suffering endured by real people seem more tangible. It is the courage shown by those without superpowers which is the most valuable and most relatable.

The art is just as good as ever with the visuals, whilst appearing simple, conveying a lot of emotion and atmosphere.

We have another two classic stories from the Rock cannon. How the Sarge got his stripes and the arrival of “the wall.” Both are typical of their time and have a much faster pace than the superbly told Azzarello story.

This volume doesn’t have the historical chapter heading of the previous volume which is an opportunity lost.

Still a Thumbs Up!

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Sgt. Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place #1 (Vertigo Resurrected) – Brian Azzarello & Joe Kubert

Sgt. Rock Between Hell & A Hard Place 1Brian Azzarello, best known for his award winning series 100 Bullets, takes the reins of an iconic character from DC’s past and does an outstanding job with a WWII mystery drama.

Modern attitudes to war are much broader and less sympathetic and Azzarello does a great job of reminding us war is hell. The opening pages take place amidst a sea of bodybags and the downbeat mood sets the tone of the piece.

The story is a tense drama that’s deals will the killing of prisoners. It is set against the backdrop of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest in 1944. This provides a good historical and emotional account of the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought.

This is a good introduction to someone who has never read any Sgt Rock as we see Rock and fellow Easy Company members doing what they have always done. Azzarello treats the characters and mythos with respect as well as telling a gripping story.

The art is by Joe Kubert, lifeling Rock artist and one of his creators. This modern tale uses a softer palette and ink washes which are perfect for the wintery landscapes. There are a lot of silent panels which really get a chance to show you what war is like better than any dialogue.

Between Hell & A Hard Place was a story released in 2003 as a six issue mini-series. This Vertigo Resurrected title reproduces the first three issues and two classic stories that deal with Rock’s origin and that of Terry O’Riley “the ice cream soldier.” As well as providing some context and background for the characters in the main story these also show you the different art and story styles from decades ago.

Thumbs Up!

100 Bullets: Wilt – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets 13There will be blood. How else do you think it will end? Sadly not a lot of explanations though.

This is a mighty twelve issues that rumbles on as one continuous juggernaut. It twists and turns and jumps back and forth. You can’t really get a handle on things as so many people are trying to fuck each other up. This is the ultimate Mexican standoff as The Trust backstab each other and Minutemen blow each other away. Occasionally these cross over.

The last page is satisfying. There is no final answer or neat resolution. Art reflects life in that these things always end in a bloody mess. There are some satisfying points along the way and as long as you accept the fact Azzarello is writing the story the way it should be told and not the way you want it to be then all will be well.

It has been a long journey. The finesse and patient character development has passed in favour of tragedy and perhaps kismet. You might have hoped or expected something different but Azzarello stuck to his guns and the irresistible force met the immovable object. A bittersweet finale. Most Shakespearian.

The art is good with some nice standout moments but there is so much conclusion being rammed in that it doesn’t get a chance to stand on its own. The last few pages are without dialogue so it gets to shine one last time.

Thumbs Up!

357/6

Tomorrow: The Losers: Ante Up – Andy Diggle

100 Bullets: Dirty – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets 12This is an odd volume. It isn’t really one big story or a series of one-shots. The plot kind of lurches onward in a series of semi-connected steps. We are back to the feeling of not really knowing what is going on and being merely a spectator. You aren’t sure how this fits into the bigger picture but given Azzarello’s pedigree you are sure it will all make sense in the end.

Some more top-notch art and superb colouring. This really is a dream team at the top of their game and the characters really pop off the page.

You are getting closer to the end but aren’t sure how or why. Thumbs Up!

356/9

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Wilt – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets: Once Upon a Crime – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets 11This is a complex volume. All the fancy intercutting and the huge cast makes it a nightmare to follow. Despite the wonderful art using colour to superbly differentiate between the scenes this can be a bit of a head scratcher. You can’t be sure if you aren’t supposed to know why things are happening or if you missed some small detail you shouldn’t have. From last volume’s demystifying we go straight back to mystifying.

The art is a wonder to behold. After eleven volumes things are never lazy or predictable. There is still as much passion in the drawing and colouring as ever.

Thumbs Up but you are ready for the check about now.

337/28

Tomorrow: Fables (1): Legends in Exile – Bill Willingham

100 Bullets: Decayed – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets 10With this volume we take another step closer to the end. The pieces are moving on the board, or getting knocked off, and you know it won’t be too much longer. But you had just got used to knowing nothing and kind of liked it. There more things are explained the less excitement there is and the less you have to put your faith in the writer.

This is a good collection of two long stories and what seems like a filler for the issue 75 one shot. The art is great and while the narrative seems to leap about like an epileptic in a time machine you manage to follow along. Familiarity is now working against Azzarello but that doesn’t stop another Thumbs Up!

336/29

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Once Upon a Crime – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets: Strychnine Lives – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets 09The books are getting thicker but the mystery is becoming less dense as Azzarello is letting you tug away at the threads to unravel his magnum opus. There are two main stories, each packed with sub-plots obviously, and a single issue to finish things off. You are getting the feeling an endgame is approaching. By the way the body count is rising it isn’t far off.

The art and colouring are superb, so much so that you take them for granted. No one is getting lazy however and the originality and innovation is still sunk deep into each page with fantastic framing and composition.

An excellent read showing masters of their craft at work. Thumbs Up!

335/30

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Decayed – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets: The Hard Way – Brian Azzerello

100 Bullets 08This is another long volume. There is a single issue expose of the ancient history of the Trust and the Minutemen and also what could be the longest unbroken story so far.

Azzarello does great with the shorter format but this longer work seems to be a success too. It has all his trademarks of the multiple narratives, diverse characters, detailed supporting cast, jumping timeline, and has a lot of heart besides. That and a very dramatic ending.

The art is great with lots of shady bars, seedy hotel rooms and dusky twilight to show off with. There are lots of flashbacks and recaps as well with ancient history looking different from recent memory.

A brilliant story and an even greater part of the ongoing saga.

334/31

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Strychnine Lives – Brian Azzerello

100 Bullets: Samurai – Brian Azzerello

100 Bullets 07This contains two short stories. The first is a taught prison drama that could easily be enjoyed by anyone who hasn’t read any of the 100 bullets. It is reminiscent of the first book as we are introduced to new characters, and a strong setting with its own culture and patois. The second tale sees the return of two people from volume four and is more of a character study than our usual conspiracy thriller. Both are enjoyable and very different. Azzerello takes his time and isn’t bothered about furthering his mega-plot but shows off his abundant writing talents.

The art is great stuff. Highly creative angles and panels that blow the competition away along with smart intercutting make this a visual feast. This is one book you want to see the script for just to see how Azzerello and Risso collaborate on the visualisation. Lovely colours, superb shadows and beautiful lighting as always.

Thumbs Up!

333/32

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: The Hard Way – Brian Azzerello

100 Bullets: Six Feet Under the Gun – Brian Azzerello

100 Bullets 06This book contains six one-shot stories, each dedicated to a single person. Some are characterful, some confusing and some deal with the bigger picture. And yes, there is one about Graves.

It is a different format and Azzarello works well with shorter stories. He is also on top of his game with the art direction and there is some great cutting between panels and narratives. His work is so much more sophisticated and filmic than most mainstream creators today. Read it slowly and savour the details.

The art is great stuff and Mulvihill gets a chance to shine with plenty of nocturnal scenes and a fabulous sunset. Even her daytime colouring is so much snappier than most, yet it still retains that Noirish, shadowy feel essential for the genre.

Another in a long line of Thumbs Up!

332/33

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Samurai – Brian Azzerello