by Joshua Dysart (writer), Rick Veitch (art), Oscar Celestini (colors), and Clem Robins (letters)
The Story: The “life” of one AK-47 is followed from creation to present day.
What’s Good: In encapsulating the history of an AK-47, Dysart has to traverse quite a bit of time over the course of this one-shot. The result is an issue that has a truly panoramic feel to it. From decade to decade and period to period, Dysart’s script really manages to deliver the sense of time, and history, passing. This makes the book feel big and fairly epic in its scope despite its focus on something mundane (a single rifle).
Dysart makes the surprising choice of having the gun itself narrate its history, which takes a little getting used to but is also a gamble that ultimately pays off in its sheer creativity. The gun’s voice is an interesting one; it’s nuanced and complex enough to seem remarkably human, if cold. It seems surprisingly adverse to slaughter and violence, feeling more content in its role as liberator or protector than as killer. It also has what seems almost to be a touch of ego. It appears irritated to be handled by children or used as a “starter gun” for a young boy.
This irritation also shows the gun’s unique ethics, or lack there of. While it sounds mildly offended at being handled by children, this seems to be a purely professional issue, one totally unrelated to ethics. Yet, of course, this contrasts wonderfully with the gun’s ideal use for itself, as a barely used tool of protection for an isolated farmer. What results is a fascinatingly equivocal and contradictory. The gun would prefer to be kept in peace, unfired, but has little problem with being involved in heinous violence. Essentially, Dysart makes it clear that the gun’s morality does exist, if only in subtle flickerings, but is completely different from a human’s. This leads to a really great, self-deprecating ending for the issue where the gun reminds us of this very fact.
Veitch’s art is really enjoyable, as he does very well in maintaining the spirit of the series and the style established for it by Ponticelli. Still, Veitch’s work provides a certain freshness for the series while providing it with an accessible, easier going feel. He also makes great use of shadows and lighting, using both to get across the African landscape. Veitch also shows an uncanny awareness of when best to remove a background and have a panel show its image against a blank color for dramatic effect.
What’s Not So Good: In going through so much history, I at times got the feeling that Dysart was taking on too much for a single 22-page comic to handle or do justice to. So much history is blown through and so many complex historical issues and conflicts only get the barest of cursory mentions. Many weighty events and issues feel very superficially approached, often reserved to quick references or subtle name-dropping.
I understand that the gun, and not the history, is the focus here but unfortunately, the history is the elephant in the room. Things go by a little briskly and something just feels wrong about a major civil war, elephant poaching, or the brutal process of African decolonization all getting little more than a little blurb or quick reference. That each of these issues only gets two or so pages is, to me, a sign that Dysart had a really good idea here but not quite enough pages.
Conclusion: A really great idea that needed a little more breathing room. I guess I just wanted more.
Grade: B –