Review by Ian Keogh
Sgt Rock is DC’s primary war character, Easy Company his supporting cast, but they’re rooted in World War II, so it’s his grandson who features in modern era missions. He first seems to be far from a chip off the old block, resisting promotion and having problems with authority, yet as Ivan Brandon and Tom Derenick’s lead story shows, place in him action and the timeless Rock reactions kick in. He’s decisive, and above all heroic.
Where Rock and his troops are in action is never specified, but most of those they’re fighting have a vague Middle Eastern look about them. While that edges toward propaganda, beyond that there’s no ideology involved. As soldiers, Rock and company need someone to fight, and the USA’s official 21st century wars have been with Arabic nations. These aren’t straightforward stories of army combat, however. Rock is placed in world of superhumans and has to deal with them. It’s an awkward fusion. While escalating the threat renders Rock even more heroic, it also removes several levels of credibility. This is no longer believable as an extremely well trained ordinary man overcoming great odds.
Were someone writing about Bruce Wayne’s financial dealings to refer to premium over straight bond value, Maastricht Criteria, and macroeconomic transaction leverage, it would be dull, and more than likely edited out. Yet the equivalent military guff apparently supplies legitimacy, impressing a small section of Brandon’s audience with authenticity by alienating the majority who wade through multiple explanatory footnotes to make sense of what’s otherwise a simple story. It’s an in-built sales diminisher. If you cream over the difference between a five five six cal and something that shoots seven six two, and know what a goose and crack bang is, Brandon is writing for you.
Rock’s six chapters are backed up by several shorter stories, the World War II adventures of Frankenstein’s monster also drawn by Derenick. He and writers Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt are having pulp fun, as they show monster vs Nazis, monster vs monster, and monster vs robot. Phil Winslade draws two stories of bravery very nicely. Jonathan Vankin’s another writer peppering his piece with military acronyms, but it’s considerably more accomplished than the Rock story, the collection’s highlight, constantly surprising, and better than James Robinson’s single man mission. Richard Corben’s art on John Arcudi’s strange Civil War enactment is a treat, and two other stories also meet the remit. J. T. Krul and Scott Kolins contrast the adrenalin of combat with the reality facing soldiers who don’t sign up for second tour, and Kindt with Patrick Scherberger effectively combines a knife fight with a chase as both combatants size each other up throughout. The weakest of the shorts is B. Clay Moore and Paul McCaffery’s piece about testing a combat suit. Almost all these shorts, though, improve on the main feature, which never hits the right mood or pace, probably losing many readers with an opening chapter that needed a greater injection of thrills.
Despite Uneasy Company being labelled as Volume 1 on the cover, there were no sequels.