Sgt. Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place
DC Comics / Vertigo
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Joe Kubert
FC, 144 pgs, $24.95 US / Higher in Canada
One of the most consistently talked about and read comic series in the last 50 years has been Sgt. Rock from DC Comics. Along with The Unknown Soldier and G.I. Combat, the three titles had been printed in various forms during the 50s and down through the 80s. Most people can remember reading a Sgt. Rock comic when they were a kid, carrying their beat-up copies around and sharing them with their friends. But since DC’s war line ended in the mid-80s, most of the characters within those books faded into obscurity, popping up now and again in unlikely places like the 90s The Demon (with the “Haunted Tank of G.I. Combat” fame by Garth Ennis!).
The first thing that struck me about Sgt. Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place was how much it reminded me of the older Easy Company tales. We’re introduced to the starring cast of Easy Company, which includes mainstay characters Sgt. Frank Rock, Bulldozer, Wildman, Little Sure-Shot and the Ice Cream Soldier. A few new members are added. As it is pointed out throughout the book, new members come in and out all the time, as men are lost to the war.
The story takes place in November of 1944, as the Second World War was beginning to draw to a close, with the Axis powers retreating back to the motherland, and Sgt. Rock and Easy Company is just a small cog in the Allies pressing attack into Germany. Rock and Easy are out on patrol and encounter the enemy on a few occasions, and the reader, if unfamiliar with the happenings of war and conflict, is shown what things were like for soldiers in combat, from the loss of comrades to the horror of land-mines. The story kicks into high gear with Easy Company encountering a squad of German officers and soldiers in the Hurtgen Forest, and while they lose a member of Easy, they manage to capture four German officers.
After an ambush while leading the prisoners to home base, Easy is separated from the prisoners and a few of its members. A search produces the bodies of three of the German Officers, who appear to have been murdered. The ethics of Easy Company are called into question as one soldier blames another, and some soldiers don’t mourn the loss. As the members of Easy Company find each other again, Rock begins to work toward solving the mystery of what happened to the prisoners, as well as begin an attack on a town held by the Germans. The murderer is finally revealed, as well as the main theme behind the book as well; the irony behind a murder in the middle of extreme bloodshed. Brian Azzarello has written a tale that has Easy Company embroiled in a murder mystery, all the while seemingly not noticing the fact there is a war going on and some things might be more important then who among the squad might be a murderer. (Greg Roch)