- 2018 INDIES Finalist
- Finalist, Graphic Novels & Comics (Graphic Novels & Comics)
In his gritty memoir Machete Squad, Brent Dulak, along with his co-contributors, tells the story of his tour as an army medic in Afghanistan.
The book’s cover, featuring Dulak wearing a skull mask and holding a syringe in his mouth, could be mistaken for that of a horror story. In some ways, Machete Squad is just that, full of people being killed or seriously injured, with nerve-wracking attempts by Dulak and his men to preserve life in a chaotic, dangerous environment. The book pulls no punches, showing soldiers seeking refuge from the horrors of war in alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex. But the realism and honesty of Dulak’s tale make it all the more compelling when he finds a kind of purpose and redemption in the book’s climax.
Despite the use of captions to describe time and place, the storytelling has a fragmented feel, at times almost dreamlike; this vividly conveys the confusion of a soldier’s state of mind, especially in circumstances where the local population can turn from friend to foe, or vice versa, in seconds.
Berg’s art isn’t necessarily what one would expect for a story anchored in reality; his is an exaggerated and cartoony style. But this, too, serves the purpose of the book well, expertly depicting long, languid days punctuated by sudden, extreme action.
Dulak shares the hows and whys of his assignments; at times, he seems a figure lost in the grander scale and scheme of America’s presence in Afghanistan. Machete Squad succeeds not merely by illustrating the depravity of war but by showing how an individual can find peace in his decisions and actions, regardless of the scenario.
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