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Through early morning fog I see: Graeme looks @Love.

Graeme McMillan

While reading it, I was trying to work out just what it was about ARMY@LOVE: THE HOT ZONE that made me feel as if it was the work of the 1970s, instead of contemporary times. Just what was it that made me think that it belonged to an era of M*A*S*H and Kurt Vonnegut and Terry Southern (As much as I am fans of them all? Well, maybe not a massive fan of M*A*S*H, but once Radar left, it was all downhill for me)? And then I got to the scene where a hippie directs a missile strike by playing his guitar in a suitably virtuoso manner, and I thought, well, yeah. It’s that kind of thing.

Not that Rick Veitch doesn’t try and make it seem more of the moment. Everyone has cell-phones, after all, and there are allusions to contemporary military scandals. But overall, it’s not only the storytelling – Veitch’s artwork, especially with the inking from Gary Erskine (who kind of brought a similar effect to Chris Weston’s art in The Filth, way back when), flashes back to 1960s and ’70s comics in linework and the slight inhumanity of its characters – but the subjects of the story that feel as if they’re from thirty years ago. Extramarital affairs and finding black humor in both corporate America and the horror of war feels like something that would’ve had the housewifes and headshops of the past chattering, especially with the sensationalistic treatment that they’re given in this book. Shakedown 1979 indeed.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course; sure, this book is more “Britannia Hospital” than “O, Lucky Man”, but I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that a younger writer wouldn’t have been able to write a war satire book with as much heart as this, thanks to a surplus of defensive irony or desire for distance (Is that a blanket statement akin to the “all young’uns can’t write stories these days” charge against Heidi? Sorry). I’m somewhat surprised by the amount of excited pull-quotes on the (nicely-designed) covers – This really doesn’t seem much better than just Okay to me, to be honest – but there’s something to this book, as dated and Alan Alda-friendly as it may be.

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