Review: MEN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY #1

From the writer Deniz Camp (WORLDE agent, Maxwell’s Demons) and artist Stipan Morian is the most complex war history and cultural critique since Revelation now in 20th century men #1. Featuring letters from Aditya Bidikar, this insightful and hyper-smart fever dream of a comic book is not for the faint of heart or those who want a light read. The first of 6 issues, this opening chapter embarks on an artistic take on alternate historical timelines, superhero mythology, and the horrors of war that evokes a blend of Coppola’s aforementioned masterpiece, watchmenand Barry Windsor Smith Monsters. With a narrative-heavy but compelling storyline and wildly unpredictable visuals, this chapter is easily one of the most unforgettable pieces of comics in recent years.

“At the end of the 20th century, superheroes, geniuses, madmen and militants are rushing towards World War III! An “iron” Soviet hero, an overpowered American president, a crazed cyborg soldier, an Afghan woman determined to build a better life for her people – these strange but familiar beings collide in a story that weaves together history, politics and mythology of the comic into something totally new.

Writing and plot

Deniz Camp’s screenplay is difficult to critically assess, due to the type of narrative that 20th men of the century #1 sets up. Instead of a linear narrative, Camp gives readers snapshots of different important points in the life of our mechanical Soviet super soldier, as well as the world at large, to put into context how the story got to where it was. is located. Camp spends considerable time outlining an alternate timeline version of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, this time spiraling into a full-fledged World War III. Camp moves from a haunting opening scene of a village in Vietnam turned into a human slaughterhouse, to war room arguments between Russian and Afghan politicians, and then to the origin story of a young Russian boy chosen to become a weapon. These types of sequences and many more are driven by Camp’s dreamlike, almost feverish narrative structure, combined with his fierce storytelling and brilliant, naturalistic dialogue. The narrative voice is of course from the perspective of Comrade Platonov, our central war machine. He’s a remarkable character in that, despite his frightening appearance, he’s also devastatingly intelligent and complex. He understands what he is and what he does, but he’s still allowed to be a man.

Camp’s alternate timeline version of WWIII and its players is the most compelling take on this specific genre of wartime history we’ve had in years. No one has understood the idea of ​​an international arms race with superhumans – and all the political ramifications and harrowing observations based on real reality – since Moore did it in watchmen. Granted, this script is a lot heavier and doesn’t *quite* have the grace of Moore’s careful pacing, but it’s also structurally a very different monster. Watching America’s great superhuman – a clever mix of Captain America, Uncle Sam and a bit of Homelander – forcibly exercise his desires and impulses in his new position (spoilers) perhaps hits a little too close to home. him. The mark of a great war story and political commentary is when the story recognizes that the subject is a moral no man’s land. There are no good people here, only button pushers, killers and those trying to survive. Camp’s script is deeply complex and throws a lot at the reader, to the point that it may take multiple readings to grasp everything it’s trying to say. For those who put in the effort, this is a powerful comic with multiple equally impressive elements that all come together to tell an outstanding narrative.

Artistic direction

Although the writing itself is very effective, the reason why 20th century men #1 will stick in your mind and when you close your eyes, it’s the visual work of artist Stipan Morian. His unpredictable style shifts from disturbing and macabre to eerily breathtaking and intimate from moment to moment. He does this by often completely changing his art style multiple times. Its opening sequence is intentionally blurry, with almost illusion-like characters and settings baking in the orange heat of the Vietnam jungle. This flickering nightmarish vision then transitions to the dreary cold of a child in Russia taken in to become a soldier, here with a very different artistic style. Morian shifts to a more “proper” and detailed style with a direct focus on character art. His character animations and his ability to convey human emotion in this comic is astounding. Morian creates sequences that are touching and humanly intimate at one moment, aggressively intense at another, then absolutely horrifying at another. This book looks like it was drawn and colored by multiple artists, but it’s all Morian’s work. It uses heavy hatching in many of its details which gives hints of BWS, but again it doesn’t stop there. He occasionally switches to a painted, almost digital style, which exudes clear elements of Frank Quietly. However, despite all of these comparisons, Morian is a very unique artist all on his own. His block and page composition are just as impressive and dynamic as his art. It uses small panels over much larger expanses focusing on key details that allow scenes to unfold and give them more context. Its larger panels and boards appear almost like dioramas, with scenes so striking they could be covers themselves.

Acclaimed letterer Aditya Bidikar has done career best job for 20th century men. Its fonts are stellar, with a soft, hand-drawn dynamic style that remains easy to read but carries the tone of the typeface perfectly. The real charm here is its SFX lettering. Some of them blend in so well with the art that it’s hard to tell if they’re Bidikar or part of Morian’s visuals. The letters punctuate the scenes, adding that sense of audio that palpably increases the sense of atmosphere and tension throughout the comic. Visually, it’s a work of art, with some of the most innovative and outstanding art in a comic this year.

Verdict

20th century men #1 is a clever, incisive, and unsettling take on war and superhero storytelling. Deniz Camp’s storyline may be a little dense, but its gripping sense of humanity and powerful thematic force make this complexity interesting. Stepan Morian’s visuals are unpredictable and immensely striking, with panels that will stay in readers’ minds long after the book closes. Be sure to grab this issue when it hits shelves August 17!

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