cover image Machete Squad

Machete Squad

Brent Dulak et al. Dead Reckoning, $18.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-68247-100-5

This raw chronicle follows Sergeant Brent Dulak, an Army medic dispatched to Afghanistan and stationed at a remote desert outpost. “This place eats people,” he’s warned by a first sergeant, and soon he’s swallowed up by the harsh routine. There are no heroic battles here, just long periods of boredom, horrifying bursts of violence, and a slow, grinding accumulation of mangled bodies. Most of the people Dulak patches up are locals caught in the crossfire, as the American soldiers are forced to compete with the Taliban for the hearts and minds of civilians who don’t trust either side. Artist Berg visualizes Dulak’s tour with simple, cartoony figures penciled in against sketchy backgrounds. The art is unpolished, but the characters have a satisfying, loose expressiveness. The arc is largely plotless, simply following Dulak on missions and observing day-to-day life. But the mundane details of surviving on the front are keenly observed: “Skype with family. Work out. Kill time on the Xbox. Tie off amputations.” Again and again, the story knowingly undermines what would be tense, dramatic scenes in a Hollywood movie by dragging them down to unglamorous reality. Though rough around the edges, this episodic tale of military life has a gritty honesty, like a guy at a dive bar with a story to get off his chest. [em](Sept.) [/em]