By Andy Frisk
February 8, 2009 - 07:46
DC’s Vertigo line has a long history of presenting old ideas and stories from the DC cannon in new and interesting ways. With the new Haunted Tank mini-series, Vertigo continues this tradition. In this newest incarnation General Jeb Stuart comes to the rescue of Tank Commander Jamal Stuart’s crew, engaged in military operations circa 2003 Iraq. What is quickly revealed is that Gen. Jeb Stuart’s charge, as before, in his ghostly afterlife is to “assist mah descendents in battle” and that in this instance the former Confederate General and possibly, one time slave owner’s descendent appears to be the tank’s African-American commander. At first the two declare there is a “mistake” but as the story unfolds and Jeb saves the crew again a reluctant acceptance on Jamal’s part is made and the tank, with its ghostly guardian, set off together to rejoin their unit and find their way out the Iraqi desert they have gotten lost in.
Take for instance the dialogue between the tank’s crew. We get two famous movie one liners dropped by the tank’s Specialist, Johnson, upon first seeing Jeb: “we’ve been slimed!” and “game over man!” (I can hear Bill Paxton’s whine ringing while the wreckage of the Sulacco’s drop ship burns). The pop culture influences on the denizens of “The Imperialist Satan’s” tank crew is obvious as we all, as products of American movies, have scores of one liners stored up for use at any convenient time necessary to prove our coolness. A few pages earlier though, we get a scene of a pickup truck full of Iraqi soldiers advancing on our Haunted Tank in which one of the soldiers yells out “I would like to see Montana,” some famous words from Captain 2nd Rank Vasily Borodin aboard the Red October, just before their defection. It appears that the difference between the Iraqi soldiers and the American ones, as far as the knowledge and one must assume, viewing of the “Imperialist Satan’s” Hollywood flicks, is not so great. This knowledge of films and interchange of pop cultural references and their use hints that there may be more similarities between the Americans and their Iraqi enemies that might be, not so comfortably, explored in the next few issues.
We also have the racial diversity of the, now haunted, tank’s crew. Chop-Chop is of Korean descent and refers to the bedouins crossing the desert as “sand people” (if you don’t get this reference then shame on you for even reading comics!) in a derogatory fashion while a few minutes later the tank’s “I’m not French” French named Beauregard suggest rounding up all the Iraqis and throwing them into camps like “we did to Chop-Chop’s people in the 40’s” to which Chop-Chop replies, “I’m Korean asshole!”
So, we have an American Tank composed of a racially mixed group: a Korean, a Southern Redneck, an African American, and a dubiously “not French” French American named Beauregard, all assisted by the Ghost of a Confederate General of the Old South, all of which display some type of racial bias or at least tension, against not only their Iraqi enemies but between themselves. Mix all of this together and drop in the, perhaps now not so clichéd relationship that will have to be developed between Jamal and Jeb as they attempt to progress thought the war with their skins, of whatever color, intact, and we can really say that “drama will ensue.” I for one can’t wait to see where all this tension takes us over the course of the next four issues. You shouldn’t wait either.