Unknown SoldierGarth Ennis is not afraid to admit to being a fan of certain elements of American culture, though in Unknown Soldier he shows us that as well as the older cinematic forms like Westerns, war flicks and road movies, he also nurtures an interest in more modern cultural phenomena like governmental conspiracies, particularly those concerning the foreign policies of the military and the CIA.
There are two main threads to the Unknown Soldier plot. In one we follow the initially whiter-than-white CIA agent William Clyde as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the eponymous soldier, helped by information that is drip fed to him by an anonymous source. As the horror surrounding the soldier's history unfolds, so does the evidence of government corruption start to pile up. The other thread is the story of the soldier himself, revealed to the reader as Clyde uncovers more.
The biggest problem we had was that the back-story wasn't given enough space. The Unknown Soldier's bandaged features are the result of some World War II action but it would have been nice, by the end of the book, to know more about the man hidden behind them. It seemed that this short four-part format simply didn't do the character justice. As a result the ending also feels hurried and falls a little flat. The Unkown Soldier is a DC character of old though it's doubtful that going back in comic history would yield any fruitful information on what makes this particular incarnation tick.
This story could quite easily have been from The X-Files if it weren't for the higher than average death toll (an Ennis trademark). Clyde almost looks like a blonde Mulder and a couple of female side-kicks are even introduced, though unlike Scully, one is deceased and the other a full-on psycho. Fans of the TV show will probably enjoy this addition to the genre.
The artwork feels grainy and gritty, providing a good backdrop to the story. However, it's the story, or rather the format, that lets everything down. Having seen Ennis on fire during his work on the extended Preacher title and elsewhere, this drops a little in our estimations. Not because it's bad but because our view of what Ennis can do with the medium is so high and this felt so rushed.
Originally published as
Unknown Soldier 1-4