by Joshua Dysart (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (art), Oscar Celestini (colors), and Clem Robins (letters)

The Story: Moses comes face to face with Joseph Kony in the explosive series finale.

What’s Good: Though the mid-twenties has proven a frequent cancellation point for Vertigo series, the end has come too soon for Unknown Soldier.  With that said, it’s a relief that Joshua Dysart doesn’t appear to have compromised his original ending for the series.  The final scenes play out in fairly satisfying fashion and it feels like this really is the ending Dysart has always envisioned.

As a final issue, Unknown Soldier #25 is an interesting read that deals head-on with some of the core problems of its basic form: a fictional comic book based on a DC property colliding with a brutal, real world situation.  Nowhere is this conflict more apparent than this month, when Moses finally meets the head of the LRA, Joseph Kony; real world bad guy meets fictional crusader.  What occurs as a result is something that had me really respecting Dysart’s skill as a writer.  At first, it appears that we’re going to get another Inglourious Basterds, a sort of revenge fantasy in which we watch an invincible hero beat the holy hell out of a loathsome figure from our world.

Then, tragically, gut-wrenchingly, Dysart basically slaps us back to reality.  He brutally reminds us that this is all fantasy.  He makes our desired ending look downright silly, making us feel like fools to expect, or take such joy in, such an utterly ridiculous conclusion.  Joseph Kony truly exists and Moses, as a result, is horribly powerless in comparison.  To expect a fictional character to have any real effect on a real world figure, even in that character’s fictional world, is ludicrous and unrealistic.  It’s a brutal kind of chastisement from Dysart.

Yet, even that would be too simple for the writer.  After all, why write a comic based on the Ugandan civil war if you believe fiction to be so powerless?  On the books final page, Dysart cunningly shifts course just a tiny bit, to give us just a little glimmer of hope.  We get the message that yes, stories do have power and stories do affect and take on a kind of life in the real world.  They may not be capable of bombastic displays of power like the Unknown Soldier ravaging Kony, but their power is all the more impressive because of how it lies below the surface, slowly seeping into reality.  Truly, the final page is a powerful one by Dysart.

All-told, this, as you can probably tell, is a deceptively complex issue.  It’s a fitting finale for Dysart and Ponticelli and it’s great to see them move, just briefly, into these large intellectual territories beyond the concrete political.

What’s Not So Good: Dysart was dealt a bad hand here.  It’s clear that Unknown Soldier needed more than 25 issues.  It’s impossible not to notice that what transpired in this issue could have filled three issues and probably would have been the better for it.  As a result, events are rushed and we’re never quite given enough time to let things settle and have their full emotional impact.  Things happen and end far too quickly.

Case in point are the book’s final pages; Dysart has to simply give us a picture of each supporting character and a blurb describing what happened to them, as there’s no time to really show us.

Conclusion: I have to dock points for just how crammed and rushed this is, but Dysart’s success under these circumstances wins out.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans

 

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