While there certainly have been many exceptional graphic novels about the Iraq War published, there have been very few that have taken such a raw, focused look at one personís journey from soldier to civilian and back again. Terry Glass is a dedicated soldier who seems able to handle the horrors of war and finds it more difficult to face the conflicts he left behind at home. Of course, Terry never really leaves the war behind or, more accurately, the war refuses to let him go, both physically and psychologically. Terry sees an opportunity to return to Iraq and in a possibly better circumstance. The contract company Steel River Securities seems to have it all in state-of-the-art equipment and training and the personnel with the proper mindset. Itís at this point that Terry faces an enemy he never expected and choices he never thought he would be forced to make.
Shooters is from the writing team of Eric Trautmann and Brandon Jerwa with art supplied by Steve Lieber. One of the most surprising things about this story is that it refuses to take a stance on war or take a firm political stance. Sure, the characters have their own opinions and the violence encountered is not watered down, but there is no agenda by the writers here and the story is the better for it. The reader is left formulate their own thoughts regarding the story and it is one that will be thought about long after the book is finished. While they are known for writing outlandish fictional super-heroes and larger than life soldiers who routinely triumph over the bad guys, Shooters is perhaps a career-defining book for both Trautmann and Jerwa and definitively proves the two are very worthy of many accolades and fistfuls of awards.
Artist Steve Lieber has a clean, realistic style that is perfectly suited to this story. Lieberís attention to detail, particularly in the reactions the characters exhibit, is striking. While many comic book artists like to deal in flash and circumstance, Lieber is one of the few greats who still knows how to tell a story. If you can flip through a comic and understand the story based on the illustrations alone, then the artist has done his job. That is certainly the case here and when combined with the startlingly bold words the end result is an instant classic and a must-read book.
Perhaps more moving than the actually story is the forward by Trautmann. I actually recommend reading it after youíve finished the graphic novel, mainly so you can read the main story in its purest form, but also because it might take you a few attempts to get all the way through it. For those of us who are either related to or acquainted with someone who has been deployed in the last decade, Trautmannís words will particularly hit home.
This is not a graphic novel for collecting, this is for reading and doing so multiple times. It may be hyperbole to tout this as the most important graphic novel of 2012, but I think that is an honest assessment. Much like Ron Kovicís autobiography Born on the Fourth of July or Stephen E. Ambroseís Band of Brothers, Shooters gives us an unabridged look at not just war, but how it affects a person both internally and externally. Obviously, those previous works were non-fiction and, of course, immeasurably profound in depicting the human condition. But Shootersí fictional examination of Terry Glass is arguably no less poignant or gripping and does an equally good job in educating the reader and perhaps allowing us to learn something about ourselves in the process. I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone, whether youíre a soldier, family or friend of one, someone curious about the Iraq War or even a person looking for a great read.
Shooters is out from Vertigo on Wednesday, April 18 at all comic book stores and a week later at book sellers everywhere.