With campaign rhetoric from Barack Obama and John McCain over an exit strategy from Iraq filling the news cycles, the timing couldn’t be better for comic book readers to pick up War Heroes by Mark Millar and Tony Harris.
If only the next President of the United States could count on a foreign policy like the one contained in these 22 pages then the troops really might all be home by 2010.
Millar and Harris have crafted a gung-ho, yet alarmingly relevant, comic book reaction to the War on Terror; an NRA fantasy where the individual becomes a living weapon. War Heroes is a 21st century re-tooling of Captain America’s origin, with mass-produced super soldiers fighting for Uncle Sam. It ponders what would happen if another atrocity were committed on US soil, no doubt hitting the nail right on the head with the assertion that Iran would be invaded within weeks.
The turmoil that is played out in the Middle East and in the streets of America feels very real-world. You can imagine events playing out exactly like that, where a terrorist attack leads to a surge in military recruitment, and an American offensive that quickly descends into a bloody fiasco with no discernible exit strategy. It’s at this point that War Heroes launches into a tale where US soldiers are given super-powers to destroy the enemy.
What Millar and Harris have done is show how an attack on the Capitol would have a hugely destabilizing effect from a national security perspective, but then the comic slides into some serious wish-fulfilment as GI Joe pops some power capsules and opens a can of whup-ass on the Jihadists.
As the story unfolds we get an insight into how the new super-powered Armed Forces impact on different levels of US life, from the administration’s senior policymakers, to the grunts on the ground and the families left behind on the home front.
We see a soldier, feted by the media after his super-powered heroics, return home to the bosom of his All-American family. It seems like the American Dream, but they are wary of congregating in the street, lest the cameras of the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit focus on them. The contrast is showing us how the extension of American foreign policy is having domestic repercussions. All is not quite what it seems, and then we get a hint of what is to come, a super-powered scam.
With John McCain talking about staying in Iraq for another 100 years if necessary, having a first issue called “The Long War” seems remarkably prescient, and over the coming issues I suspect War Heroes will have a lot to say about American foreign policy. This first issue feels like it would go down well in the Beltway, with unabashed patriots who hold that success in Iraq would have been achieved with more troops and more resources. War Heroes is the ultimate example of More Bang For Your Buck, but I suspect things won’t be that straightforward in the rest of the series. If Iraq has taught us anything it’s that overwhelming force is not enough. What’s also needed is a political strategy that forges strong international and in-country alliances. War Heroes gives us the first, but deploying super-powered soldiers in a scorched earth offensive will not deliver the latter. It’ll give you a hell of a read though.