No Easy Answers
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its seventy-third choice, Sgt Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place, by Brian Azzarello and Joe Kubert published by Vertigo/DC and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Sgt Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Joe Kubert
Colours: Kubert School
Today’s choice is an original graphic novel that saw legendary artist, writer and editor Joe Kubert return to the character that arguably he was the most associated with in his long and distinguished career. Sgt Rock first appeared in DC’s Our Army At War back in 1959 but he quickly became one of DC’s most popular war creations. Working with writer Robert Kanigher, Kubert brought the horrors of war to life like no other comic artist. Kubert moved away to work on other material but on occasion he came back to Rock and his group of soldiers, Easy Company. Seventeen years ago, he teamed up with Brian Azzarello, writer of series like 100 Bullets, Batman and Wonder Woman on this hard-hitting original graphic novel for DC’s now defunct Vertigo imprint.
It is November 1944 and Sgt Rock and Easy Company find themselves in and around the Hurtgen Forest in Europe, scene of some of the most brutal and intense combat of the Second World War. They pick up four German high ranking SS officers as their prisoners but during the melee, the dust clears and their prisoners have been murdered. But who was responsible for this? Between Hell & A Hard Place asks whether a soldier can be a cold-blooded killer in the heat of the battlefield and just who killed their prisoners?
Azzarello is a great match for Kubert, ably stepping into the shoes of Kanigher and Kubert displays the same poise and level of detail that has always marked him out as one of the most exceptional comic illustrators of the last sixty years. His art evolved over his career and at this point it is at its most visceral, matched perfectly by the subtle tones of the colour palette utilised by the Kubert School. He never lost his ability as an artist and as a storyteller and it was to his credit that he kept constantly evolving and improving. It is the mark of a master and a perfectionist to constantly strive to improve your work. They really bring the real-life setting off the page thanks to their simple but effective use of shapes, shadows and textures. It is Azzarello’s skill as a writer that lifts this from just being a simple morality tale too.
It is hard to do war comics well but Kubert was one of the masters of the form and Azzarello is an equal partner here. Kubert returned once more to the soldier that had made his name with story The Prophecy four years later. Sgt Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place is a slab of hardbitten war comics and a worthy addition to Kubert’s canon as a comic artist.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far