It’s a rare sight to see male creators tackle the patriarchy in the fashion that Ales Kot’s Lost Soldiers does. One moment, this book is an engaged tome poem, the next a viscerally engaged war story, and then a reflective incision to our past. While a simple explanation of this book would be to say it’s an exploration of male toxicity, it offers more profundity with each respective panel. Raw and gritty at its surface level images, this book truly feels as though there is a proper exchange of consciousness from the creators of this book to the reader.
Within the first three pages, the narration gives a glimpse of the world that we are going to be washed in as the war story floods the reader. It’s powerful how adept Kot has grown from his past series, Zero, to Lost Soldiers — while Zero was a super-spy thriller that morphed into a wonderful cultural criticism that was brutal and dark, Lost Soldiers holds no such deception at its face. It embodies itself as a horror story more than a thriller, hitting themes of patriarchy, colonialism, white supremacy, and trauma. In many aspects, it’s reminiscent of the contemplation and narrative horror like Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Blood Meridian, and Suttree. But there is this textured experience reminiscent of surrealist filmmakers like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives or David Lynch’s Lost Highway.
Artistically, Luca Casalanguida is simply a master within this form. Already working with Kot on his James Bond: The Body miniseries, their synergy has truly compounded amongst themselves. The visceral and mundane nature of this story is properly grappled through the way Casalanguida embodies these three males and the traumas they suffer.
Readers are capable of comprehending the scope of the damage these men have suffered in the debut of this miniseries just from the expressions of characters alone — one character appears both traumatized and exhausted, but treading on with his life, while others are simply blinked out without being able to live. Casalanguida makes readers feel this with his beautifully rendered contrast between 1969 Vietnam and the present day. In truth with these characters, it appears time has not healed their wounds, but only covered them.
Further adding to this wash of violence and surrealism is Heather Marie Lawrence Moore’s coloring on this book. Put simply, it’s awesome. She adds this wash of fluctuating colors that properly enable the gaze of the reader. Going a step further, these colors manage to properly highlight certain aspects of violence and trauma that properly enumerates the themes of this book. Moore’s colors make it feel as though these men have managed to simply repeat a cycle of violence of their own pain and traumas. In every way, she blessed this book with her colors.
Aditya Bidikar does a magnificent job lettering the dense narration of Kot’s writing within this series, offering a nice set of word balloons that offer a proper voice to these men wrought with the world around them. Another knockout aspect of this book is Tom Muller’s design work –there are some wonderful clippings at the end of this book designed to be a newspaper or a note that properly blend the realism of the world that Kot has created. Even more is the simple title page created that offers this eerie wave of revelation, reading the epigraphs and the title of this issue: “IT NEVER LEAVES YOU, NOT REALLY”.
In its first issue, Lost Soldiers enamors the reader into learning about the way men hurt and devour each other’s souls whole. Ales Kot has always been a master at his craft, but he has evolved in his time since Zero. Even more than a writer, Kot is a diagnostician necessary in these unknowing times. I just hope we can all heal from this. But know: the past is a bullet.