cover image Smedley


Jeff McComsey. Dead Reckoning, $26.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-68247-276-7

Outside of Leatherneck circles, the name Smedley Butler (1881–1940) may not ring many bells, but this spirited graphic biography aims to bring broader acclaim to the gung-ho Marine general whose service stretched over several wars and took a late turn into political advocacy. McComsey (Son of Hitler) uses the framing device of Butler arriving to speak to the 1932 “Bonus Army”—the Washington, D.C., protest march by poverty-stricken WWI veterans demanding bonuses—only to get sidetracked into trading war stories and solidarity with the marchers. Butler lands in 1898 Cuba as a callow new Marine, then ships out to put down uprisings in the Philippines and, a couple years later, the Boxer Rebellion in China. Later, the lean, quippy, hardboiled Butler follows the Marines into Mexico and Haiti for missions whose purpose he does not question (“I go where I’m told”) and earns two Medals of Honor. Drawn with dense sepia-washed tones, McComsey’s larger-than-life characterizations crackle. Butler’s Bonus Army speech is a rousing stem-winder, while a postscript details his surprising retirement crusade against the military-industrial complex, when he published his treatise War is a Racket. McComsey uncovers a key historical military figure in this graphic narrative; but with ripping combat yarns bookended by shorter-shrift examples of Butler’s activism, it delivers an overall muddled message. . [em](Oct.) [/em]