Gear Up with These High-Action Classic War Comics

This fall, Sgt. Frank Rock and Easy Company are returning for a new action horror adventure.

This is one of the first comics in a long time that has me excited about a release from a mainstream label, and I am hoping it lives up to my expectations. I am a gal who likes those old-school soldier stories with muscle-bound men fightin’ everything from opposing forces to space men.

In the case of DC Horror Presents: Sgt. Rock vs. Army of the Dead written by the endlessly talented Bruce Campbell, with art by Eisner Award winner Eduardo Risso, Sgt. Rock and his men are in Europe during WWII facing off with…Nazi Zombies!

Damn you, Hitler!!!

Some preview cover art by Francesco Francavilla for “Sgt. Rock vs. The Army of the Dead” © DC Comics.

There should be some pretty intense variant cover art for this six-issue series, as well, and if the promos are any indication, I’m picking up the ones by Francesco Francavilla.

Now, likely because of Campbell’s involvement with this project, Sgt. Rock is about the pick up some new fans, but he’s been around since 1959 when writer Robert Kanigher and legendary artist Joe Kubert first introduced him in Our Army at War #83.

Before you reserve your copies of Rock’s latest — and I’m betting one of his most gruesome —adventures, here are a five titles pulled from my own home library to hunt down and read up on:

The Sgt. Rock Archives: Volume 1

There are four volumes worth of Sgt. Rock, comics in DC’s Archives collection, and all are worthy reads, but this one has his first appearances, as well as one that came before his official “Sgt. Rock” appearance, in G.I. Combat #68 January 1959, (appropriately titled “The Rock”).  Forewarning: my husband picked this hardback up before the prices begin going crazy, so I would scour some used bookstores or online comics sites to read this. Volume 1 is fetching some pretty hefty price tags right now. Shame, really, because it’s a jewel of a collection with some fantastic early stories.

DC Goes to War

This 2020 collection of DC war comics spans six decades of rousing tales from 1941 to 2001, starting with “Blackhawk” from Military Comics #1 by Will Eisner and Bob Powell. There are stories from Weird War Tales, The Losers, Our Army Art War and Our Fighting Forces with works by several well known artists, classic and contemporary, including Kanigher and Kubert, Garth Ennis, Chuck Dixon, Eduardo Barreto, Marv Wolfman and many others.

Of course, one of the best reasons to get this is for another DC “character” introduction — The Haunted Tank! from 1961’s G.I. Combat #87.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, Volume 1

The MCU may be getting a little over-played today, but at least we got to bring to life the Howling Commandos thanks to Captain America and Agent Carter. Volume 1 of the Marvel Epic Collection of this Marvel fighting force collects the first 19 Silver Age tales of Nick Fury from 1961 to 1965, all by the creative team of writer Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. This the old school Fury at his finest with fan favorites Dum-Dum Dugan, Gabriel Jones and other Commandos mainstays.

They also show off something that wouldn’t fly in many comics today: the various firearms used during wartime, teaching readers about different “chatter guns”, rifles and other wartime weapons and gear.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon, 1948

This the second volume from Checker Books of the post-War globe-hopping exploits of Major Steve Canyon are right out of the “funny pages.” It includes five complete storylines from his daily comics. Sure, he’s a bit of a womanizing pretty boy, but he’s dang cool, and the sheer beautifully detailed talent of Caniff’s black-and-white illustrations are enough to make this volume worth a read.

Caniff himself was such a stickler for detail, as well as a patriotic American, Canyon received an official “retirement” ceremony in 1989, one year after Caniff’s death. I mean, why not? Canyon logged in a lot of mileage in his more than 41 years of syndication.

“Garth Ennis Presents: Battle Classics” includes two volumes worth of tales from the British comic series “Battle.”

Garth Ennis Presents: Battle Classics

We have two volumes of this collection from Titan Books is lovingly put together by a man who is no stranger to war stories, Garth Ennis.

Most people know Ennis for his over-the-top graphic — very graphic — series like Preacher and The Boys, but here he pulls together some of his own influences and favorites of the British comic series Battle Picture Weekly that ran from 1975 to 1988. Most of these stories were set in WWII era, and the first takes off with the story of the HMS Nightshade. The action starts on the first page and doesn’t let up the entire time.

Before you get ready to battle some undead Axis forces, I hope these classics get you ready for adventure…and battle.

Sgt. Rock vs. Army of the Dead #1 hits the racks with a bang Sept. 27.

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