Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Cold War Vol. 1′ TPB, out September 19 from AfterShock Comics

Cold War Vol. 1: Dead Future

Cover to ‘Cold War Vol. 1’. Art by Hayden Sherman/AfterShock Comics

By Arpad Okay. You were sick. Too sick. Fast forward almost six hundred years. The bill for your cure is due, to be paid in blood. Don’t worry, it isn’t your blood. But worry, because now this war is yours.

Then again, maybe you’re cool with that. The storytelling reins are passed from cryonaut to cryonaut in Cold War, and each soldier appears to be equally a mess. Everyone has gone willingly into deep sleep so they can come out and get their hands dirty. Unfinished business is put on hold, however, as the team is dropped into the thick of things. Fresh out of the freezer and into the firefight.

The first story we get is one of the few to survive the first breach: a military murderer from back when ops were still covert. A real Robert Bloch, Jim Thompson top-tier secret psychopath. The best moments of life are screaming fire orders to attack choppers while unloading a clip into some faceless enemy. No interest in redemption. This guy knows that war is pain. He likes pain. With him telling the story the line quickly blurs between him and Christopher Sebela, romanticizing bloodshed.

Unlike war, it’s for a reason.

There are the lovers. The spy. The Proud Boy. The quiet one is a mob queen who knew how to rip your face off before she became the Bionic Woman. At least they have a body, a supersuit, a bike helmet with a TV inside. Some end up a head in a jar with gun arms and wind-up robot legs. Some are a black mass of scrap, un-skeleton in a robe, screaming cenobite beneath.

Hayden Sherman really brings the horror out in Cold War. He squiggles, strokes the pen like sword slashes, rakes in the sand of a zen garden crazy quilt. War is crystal clear. Solid black super suits with blood orange accessories etched into a sea of Easter Egg dip dye psychedelic. Everything else is imperfect, off-set risograph printing with loose hinges, everything a color, darkness only in overlapping plates. Life outside the war is a bad photocopy.

Sherman’s sketchy style is not your typical martial comic art choice. It is substantive, especially the color and treatments, but much more concerned with mood than realism. Typical books ape authoritarianism as a visual guide, clean, precise, never short on flying shrapnel, but every line is accounted for on the ledger. Cold War is punk rock. It is the war correspondent’s handwritten journal, nary a straight line to be found, too planted in the shit for it.

The visuals hit on pillars of the genre: the wasteland, urban battleground, the tank bank of decapitated future soldiers, the ghostly memory of suburbia. The method is avant-garde. The colors and textures are a rock album cover. The dynamic use of empty space and panel overlap elevate the emotional impact instead of detailed warzone worship.

Don’t get it twisted, said warzone is utterly unchained Judge Dredd megaviolence. It’s warfare that echoes the medieval in the modern. The pawns tear each other apart. The kings making moves aren’t anywhere to be found where bullets (and worse) are flying.

Do you pity the soldier in spite of what they do?

The twists come hard, fast, and plentiful enough that you’ll enjoy the ride no matter how you feel about war. Sebela’s genius is that you get to know the characters. War, it kills everybody. Soldiers are still human. None of these cryonauts is a good person, but you get to know them, you are with them inside and out.

Sebela and Sherman measure the beats of the story, the many stories, to perfection. The present and the past interwoven. Two lovers telling one story, cut through with the story of the spy’s present as dictated by her past. Three (five) become two become one and boom, another remix. Cold War is a chaotic rebirth from repugnant to glorious. The weapons turn from warriors to warmongers.

Is violence ever justified?

Who wins a war?

Cold War appeals to an animal part of us, one that thrills at fire and blood. But it speaks to us of something greater. Of Hell, yes, but also Paradise.

AfterShock Comics/$14.99

Written by Christopher Sebela.

Art by Hayden Sherman.

Lettered by Hayden Sherman.

‘Cold War Vol. 1’ hits stores Wednesday, September 19.


Check out this six-page preview of ‘Cold War Vol. 1’, courtesy of AfterShock Comics!
More Required Reading…

‘Why Art?’ a hypnotic Möbius strip of beauty, calamity, detachment, observation, and creation

‘Criminy’ has a deep love for yesteryear and an eye towards tomorrow

‘Dork’ an essential collection of sunshine, pop culture, sex and bloody revenge