cover image The Stretcher Bearers

The Stretcher Bearers

Reid Beaman and Ryan Beaman. Dead Reckoning, $24.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-68247-619-2

A young soldier wades through mud, blood, terror, and torment in this turbulent, bluntly told debut tale by the Beaman brothers, set in the 1918 Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Sixteen-year-old Maxwell Fox’s unit of stretcher bearers shuttle the injured back from the front. Against this grim background Maxwell slowly discovers a sense of family, his first ever, in the men of his unit—testy, disillusioned Frank; shell-shocked Ralph; and father figure Graham Calviner—as they inch slowly forward under torrential rain and German fire. Ultimately, only Maxwell’s left alive, but he finally finds a home with Graham’s family after the war. Reid’s artwork complements the depths of despair and hopelessness the cast traverses; there’s no glory or humor here. The coloring employs dark teal blue-green as highlights, rendering the constant mud, muck, and blood in the same stark shades, like a sepia-toned film. Rather than a battle action piece, the work harkens back to mature, realistic war comics such as EC’s Frontline Combat or Marvel’s The ’Nam, and the emotional ending tears at the heart without being manipulative. This is a solid historical war narrative—and an intense and moving portrayal of brotherhood. (Apr.)