Category Archives: pat masioni

Review – Unknown Soldier #14 (Vertigo, 2009)

Moses, aka The Unknown Soldier, returns his young charge, the liberated child soldier Paul, back to his family. Before he does that, in a stunning opening sequence, he must traverse deadly terrain and avoid hostile Fighter Aircraft to get Paul there. These scenes, played in deafening confusion and the horror of being within the grasp of death, are amazing – with full credit to the art of Pat Masioni, who conveys the sheer terror with maximum impact.

Once arrived safely, the elder of the village does not want Paul welcomed back, despite pleas from the boys extended family. This elder states that these ‘lost children’, these abandoned, brutalised victims of circumstance – these child soldiers – are ‘ a tribe of their own now’. It is only when Moses, in a stunning single panel, confronts the elder, literally burning wih a combustible mix of indignation and sheer desperation, that Pauls fate is decided.

That fate is this – Paul must break an egg, a symbolic breaking away from his past, a reassurance to the community that te evil of death and destruction that the child was witness and party to does not infect them. For Moses, his fate is more unclear. Paul wants his rescuer to stay with him, and the elder offers hope in the ritual of ‘mato oput’, the blood of the lamb mixed with the bitter root, to celebrate the passing of hate. A ceremony of forgiveness and peacemaking.

The elder, the lawi rwodi, sees the blood of many upon Moses, and the ‘mato oput’ is the only ceremony that will cleanse the ‘Unknown Soldier’, and exorcise the ghosts of these dead. Once it is done, Moses seems to undertake a redemption, symbolised beautifully as a barren tree laden with skulls giving way to the tree, free of its grim cargo, the skulls disapearing like blossom into the air.

Paul urges his protector to stay and help his people during the dry season – this coming season ‘is not good’, and Paul, who knows the value of having this resourceful man around, sees the Unknown Soldier as a great asset in troubled times ahead. Is this a further invitation for Moses to change his life? Away from the killing and destruction, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to this challenge.

As a bridge into the upcoming ‘dry season’ arc, it is a powerful reminder of why this series works so well. It is not just about the terrible conflicts in Africa, but also the power of man to change, sometimes for the better. A message of hope here, as well as an insight into a peoples culture and rituals. Another vital issue in a vital series.

Review – Unknown Soldier #13 (Vertigo, 2009)

‘The Way Home’ is the new arc in this terrific series, taking us back to the heart of this title, with the Unknown Soldier coming to the aid of Paul, a child taken by the rebels and forced into their army. His story, told through his own words and drawings, is harrowing, but all the more disturbing for the fact that you know that this is a very real scenario endured by many. Having escaped the GUSCO camp (aimed at rehabilitating child soldiers), having escaped the hellish conditions of forced conscription into the LRA, Paul is now desperate to get to his family in an IDP camp. Moses, initially reluctant, agrees to help this tragic child.

That summarises the issue, but does not do justice to the contents. The writing, as ever, is brutally honest in its depiction of a war in Africa where the most vulnerable are the most exploited and the casualties of war are predominantly the innocent. While Dysart is keen to emphasise the suffering – and this he does with subtlety, power and honesty – he can also weave a terrific and involving story around these bald and terrible facts.

This issue sees a change of artist, as Ponticelli takes a break. The replacement artist is DRC illustrator Pat Masioni. I am a huge fan of Ponticellis work, but Masioni ably takes up the art duties and makes this issue his own. His art, like Ponticellis, lays bare the brutality of war, the grief of suffering and the evil that men can do – witness his drawing of a child being ripped from his mothers arms, her pleading, the hostility and threat of the rebel soldiers – and does it with an energy and anger that drives the story, engaging the reader.

Unknown Soldier #13 is a change of pace from the high octane thriller energy of the ‘Easy Kill’ arc. It is more contemplative, more terrifying, more heart-rending. The focus is back on the victims of the wars and internecine struggles in Africa. There is no greater tribute to this title than this – Dysart and his supremely gifted artists sear these terrible events into your conscious. A lot of the images and words are not easy to forget. and nor should they be. Unknown Soldier is the most important comic book on the market right now, it is political, righteous, angry, engaging and gripping – no other title manages this feat.