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Alternative Comics Beat: Sledgehammer 44

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Sledgehammer 44

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Written by: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi

Art by: Jason Latour

Art by: Laurence Campbell

Colors by: Dave Stewart

Introduction

There’s just something absolutely spellbinding about the “Mignola-verse” that you can’t find at any other major comic book publisher. From Hellboy to Lobster Johnson you can find heartfelt storytelling, chilling men and monsters, and adventure that doesn’t show up on the pages of any other books.

 

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When I heard about Sledgehammer 44 I was immediately interested in the story. I picked up the first issue at my local comic book store and devoured it, only to read it again later that day. The only problem is that, due to a snafu with my pull-list, I never got the other issues. When the trade paperback of the series was released I knew I had to have the collection. After reading it I kicked myself for not having caught up sooner. And, when I finished the collection, I knew that I was going to write an Alternative Comics Beat about the series.

The Story

The story takes place during World War II as a group of American soldiers provide back-up for a secret mission against a German facility. The mission is to provide cover for the operative known as Sledgehammer — a  man in a giant suit of armor with the power to discharge intense energy. As the soldiers participate in the operation, a freak accident puts a new man in the suit and takes the story in a fascinating new direction. Including the return of a villain once seen in a Lobster Johnson tale.

 

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The Artwork and Writing

Jason Latour, who I raved about with Southern Bastards not too long ago, outdoes himself with the artwork. The character’s faces, the energy attacks, and emotions that rise and fall on each page are well worth the admission. And Laurence Campbell’s story arc has just the same amount of punch and vigor that Latour’s issues have. Campbell’s Black Flame is one of the creepiest renditions of the character, and I can’t wait to go and find more of his work at Dark Horse or other publishers.

Mignola and Arcudi have a knack for playing in this sandbox. Whether it’s together or separate, they know how to weave these tales in and out of touching moments of humanity and examples of war-torn horror.

Why it’s a great alternative?

The WWII superhero is no new concept. While it could be called a mixture of Iron Man and Captain America, there are elements to this character and concept that strays very far away from the Marvel characters. It might be a WWII story, but it’s one of those interesting action and horror blends that can only be found in the Mignola books at Dark Horse. It’s a fantastic alternative from the regular superhero narrative, where everyone is safe and the status quo is always restored at the end.

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Who would enjoy this collection?

I think that fans of Hellboy are definitely going to enjoy this series. It’s a given that if you enjoy Mignola’s work and other titles that this one is up your alley. I would also recommend that fans of characters like Captain America or Iron Man give this a shot, or fans of war comics in general. Of course being a fan of Southern Bastards helps for the beautiful Latour art, and anyone familiar with Arcudi or Campbell will want to check out their work in this volume as well.

Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

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Advanced Review: Sledgehammer 44 #2 (of 2)

With so much talk revolving around a certain movie that will have numerous suits of armor featured, I thought it imperative to focus on a different “iron” tale this week. One that features a single suit of armor, Hyperborean armor — the Iron Prometheus!

Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have created their own niche within the confines of tales regarding heroes donning suits of armor in order to save the day. Their tale may have similar overviews with Marvel’s blockbuster hero but that’s where the differences cease. Their tale, one rife with Nazis, gunplay and Mignola’s classic take on tales of the ethereal, transcends that of just a super hero tale. It is a story of true heroism and the internal anguish sometimes caused by it.

Rendered expertly by artist Jason Latour (Django Unchained, B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: The Pickens County Horror), this issue follows a group of GIs that have just evaded certain death at the hands of the Nazi regime and are now trying to protect their immobile metal savior. As the action sequences berate you, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and believe that you are just reading another WWII battle book. Then, you remember Mike Mignola is a master word smith and the tale becomes something so much more than the sum of it’s parts. It becomes a sad, insightful look at what it takes to be a hero. It is not the suit nor the range of powers that can be derived from it, it is not the man that wields it but, it IS the heart and soul of that man that makes him a hero. It is also the sacrifice that is made in order to overcome fantastic odds for the betterment of the greater good that defines him. These are the aspects that will resonate with you as you complete this fantastic book about sacrifice and brotherhood. 

Mignola and Arcudi have created one of the finest new heroes within the pages of this book. It is a character that I hope to find many years from now, still donning the cover of his own book, in my local shop. This book is simply sublime!

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The “DOC’s” Top Of The Pile for 3/13/2013

 

The Top Of The Pile

By: Chris “DOC” Bushley

 

This is a “quick pick” look at the Top 5 comics that EVERYONE should be reading this week! Whether it’s rife with characterization, filled with emotional strife, has a bevy of high octane battle sequences or is just a plain ol’ great read — these books belong at the “Top Of The Pile!”

 
 
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1. Sledge-Hammer 44 #1(of 2) (Dark Horse): Straight from the pages of Lobster Johnson: Iron Prometheus, comes the tale of Mike Mignola’s version of an “iron man!” What could U.S. troops in the middle of a warzone, surrounded by Nazis, use more than a little help from above? How about a bomb that encases the ultimate fighting machine?! This quirky Mignola tale melds WWII drama and sci-fi zaniness into the perfect story that will leave you begging for more!
 
 
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2. Batgirl #18 (DC): Even though the cover suggests that the issue will focus on the loss of Damian Wayne, this story barely touches on it but is a stunning tale just the same! Ray Fawkes creates a fantastic and eerily creepy tale of Batgirl’s sadistic brother, James Gordon Jr., playing mind games and hunting for prey as his sister deals with a bruised body and a broken heart. It is rich in character development and a true page turner that just might keep you up at night.
 
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3. The Walking Dead #108 (Image/Skybound): Robert Kirkman has been giving fans heart attacks with the last few issues — feigning the death of Carl will do that to a reader! This latest installment will give an insiders look at a bevy of characters thoughts on their new situation and expands on the ever growing world of TWD! I won’t give too much away but I will say, “Ezekiel has a tiger!” Nuff’ said!
 
 
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4. Star Wars #3 (Dark Horse): Brian Wood has created a fantastic series that feels more cannon than ANY of the prequel movies ever did! Focusing on the strength and determination of everyone’s favorite Princess, this series is a testament to Leia’s true leadership of the Rebellion and that she should NEVER be considered just a damsel in distress! All the original cast is there, no need for discussions or contracts in the world of comics, and this will bring you back to the wonderment of childhood and the amazing movies that shaped our lives from an early age.
 
 
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5. Avengers Arena #6 (Marvel): Okay, don’t let the cover throw ya, this book has some of the best characterization and dramatic scenes of any comics on the shelves today! Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker have taken an over done concept and truly made it into something smart and original. Part Lord of the Flies part Hunger Games, this book is harrowing from front to back and it is something every good comic fan should check out more than once! Plus, this one has ANOTHER major death, who would have thought that, right?
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