JAPANESE AMERICAN VETERANS ASSOCIATION
1749 Old Meadow Road, Suite 500, McLean, VA 22102 (Bob Nakamoto, President)
February 29, 2009
CONTACT: Terry Shima 301-987-6746;
PHOTO: Photo accompanies the article below
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Editorís Note. Permission to reprint this article was granted by Ms. Debbie Lickliber, Feature Editor, Philadelphia Daily News.
At last, 'Sgt. Rock and the Lost Battalion'
Comics Guy has been waiting for this work
IF THERE Is one book Comics Guy has been looking forward to, it is DC's "Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion."
Why? Because Billy Tucci - who wrote, penciled and inked the entire project with some help only on covers - has been telling Comics Guy how excited he was about his take on the classic World War II character since before the project was even announced.
Tucci went the extra mile and then some in wanting a story that was as accurate as possible down to the last detail while also conveying the emotions of the soldiers involved,
For example, Tucci not only researched the Vosges Mountains in France, where a lot of the story takes place, he traveled there.
He talked to residents and veterans of battles there so his writing would be as authentic as possible and not only took a multitude of pictures but even did some of his drawing there so he would capture the battles accurately and bring them to life as much as possible with his art, right down to every pebble and blade of grass.
Tucci's efforts in producing this story were so appreciated by the French he was made an Ambassador. Likewise, his efforts to talk to surviving Japanese-American veterans and shining a spotlight on their little-known contributions to the war effort earned him their gratitude.
The result of all this combined with Tucci's talent and passion to have this story told is a remarkable comic book.
There is an incredible amount of detail here, in every aspect of the book. It may be the most accurate portrayal of war ever put on a comic page.
The story begins on D-Day - June 6, 1944 - and the Allied invasion of Normandy. Sgt. Rock and Easy Company are front and center in the battle, which fans of "300" should appreciate. Like Leonidas of Sparta, Rock faces overwhelming odds. He is one of 3,000 seasick men against foes numbering half a million.
The theme of Rock, Easy Company and the Americans in general as big underdogs is recurrent throughout the story, especialy four months after the success of Normandy when Rock's battalion becomes "lost."
Indeed, Tucci portrays the battalion as being ridiculously outnumbered, surrounded and trapped by a desperate German Army determined to avenge the loss at Normandy and crush them.
As a German General notes, the Nazis have an army of 7,000 of the finest troops in the world - supported by 3,000 fresh reinforcements - against a small battalion made up of draftees and militia.
Rather than be overwhelmed, Rock and Easy company fight with extreme urgency and determination, despite the brutally high costs.
One skirmish portrayed has 48 Americans go into battle and only five come back. Sgt. Rock and four members of Easy Company - who lose one of their own - are the only ones who survive the carnage.
Rather than just depict intense battles, Tucci takes care to also show the strategy involved. For example, after a few brutal skirmishes, Rock decides they must fool the Germans into thinking there are more of them than there actually are or else the Germans will use their superior numbers to annihilate them. It is amazing to see how they go about that task.
As if that weren't enough, there is an incredibly accurate sniper to worry about and a general with a grudge against Rock.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story, still to be fully fleshed out, is that the last best hope to save the "lost battalion" are the "Little Iron Men" of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd consisted of Japanese-Americans who, despite tension in the ranks and their relatives being put in internment camps back home, are determined to save the "lost battalion" and fight for America with honor, even if it kills every last one of them.
This is some pretty powerful stuff. One of the few negatives in Comics Guy's eyes is that the story is so detailed that at times it reads like a history book or a documentary. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing or that Tucci doesn't manage to make it flow with the story most of the time, but many non-World War II and/or military buffs may find themselves overloaded with info and jargon.
Also, Tucci broadly paints the American soldiers as those fighting against evil and tyranny and as young men who dream not of conquest but of getting back home alive.
However, there is very little, if any, description of the members of Easy Company for the uninitiated.
Instead, Tucci introduces them in "Breakfast Club" fashion, stating that "within every GI the world over there is a Sergeant Rock. As there is a Tag Along . . . a Bulldozer . . . a Wildman . . . a Little Sure Shot . . . and an Ice Cream Soldier. Together, they are all Easy Company."
It's a minor issue, especially when one sees the incredible artwork in this book. It has the kind of exquisite detail and expression that can only come when passion is involved. From "Saving Private Ryan"-worthy battles to the buttons on a soldier's uniform, every tree in a landscape and every tread on a tank, there is nothing negative that can be said about what the combination of Tucci's passion and unique talent has produced withing the covers of "Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion."
Ironically, Tucci has the narrator of the story be an embedded cartoonist who treats Rock and Easy Company with reverence and awe. With this story, it is clear Tucci has done the same. While this six-issue series has reached its midpoint, Tucci himself says No. 4 (due out Wednesday) might be the best - and an excellent jumping-on point for those who want to see a perfect combination of talent and passion. *