Shooters / by Alec Berry


Shooters delivers a story set against the Iraq War of a soldier who survives a "friendly fire" incident.  The dude eventually drags on, finds he can't land a decent job, losses his wife and kid to domestic stuff, and well, ends up back in the war zone as a private contractor because he has nothing else. It is a pretty depressing tale, but one of the co-writers, Eric Trautmann, says comes from a personal spot as a friend of his kind of lived this life. Press coverage tells me this, at least, but I also think think some of the personal investment does shine through in the actual work even without knowing that ahead of time. Running at one hundred and thirty-six pages, Shooters actually isn't too bad. I think the book gets caught up in a few extra scenes here and there, but for the most part it is interesting and operates smooth enough. Although, you could argue this thing rides a little bit on the done before, "this is real world s*!t talked up in the news" subject matter in order to achieve some sense of credibility or find approval, but the creative team does bring a sense of noir characteristics to the work in order to give it an edge and suggest it's not only about approval but actually being a story. You know, because genre traits tend to suggest that, at least to me.

Shooters really takes a bit of twist in that way. You expect it to become this conspiracy case as the main character attempts to investigate and find justice for the incident which almost killed him, but it sort of ends up, in the end, being more about his life off the battlefield and how he completely lets it fall apart. And the last few pages are pretty great. There's a nine grid which Eisner-Award winning artist Steve Lieber nails in terms of the pacing, and it sells the whole moment.

But, as I said, it's not perfect. The book feels a bit long, and I eventually got to a point where I wanted it to speed up and end. Shooters could have benefited from a tighter edit, dumping quite a few unnecessary scenes. Trautmann and co-writer Brandon Jerwa like to give us a few scenes of the same thing rather than just give us the one good scene to convey the point. The narration also tends to become repetitive after a while; the script works really hard to make sure it's nailing the core questions into your brain even after it's pretty safe to say we know them. The writing wasn't bad, but at times it becomes so tediously repetitive that you have to wonder if the editor didn't understand the story, and therefore failed to point this out.

The often frustrating narration also stands as a reason why Steve Lieber deserves some praise here. Besides the artwork's dynamism in the appropriate spots, Lieber keeps pages as organized and straightforward as he can the whole way through. The writers lay down a lot of dialogue and narration throughout this thing, and Lieber arranges things well enough so it all fits. But, I hate to say, success isn't always met. Sometime pages seem very crowded, increasing the breathing with the onset of claustrophobia.

I like Lieber's work here, though, for its ability to capture the action as well as position and posture characters and events for the sometimes statuary look. Which is needed as it brings a bit of a weight to the narrative. He blends movement and tableau well; he effectively covers those areas when the story calls for them.

Overall, I found this one okay. It won't blow you away with it's concept -- you've seen this story before--but, the creative team does bring some new aspects to the narrative in terms of tone, and Lieber's artwork pleases the eye. As for Trautmann's personal attachment, there are moments it bleeds through. There are moments I just knew came from a real place, and those are the best moments because they for one, slight moment left me thinking, "Well, damn, this is pretty great." Sadly though, by book end, little of those moments stuck with me and I just ended up with, "Well, damn ... that was average."

TL;DR: Shooters supplies a few moments worth talking about, but for the most part, this OGN riffs on cynical post-traumatic war stories you've read before. If you into war stories, this could be worth the money, but for the average reader it might play as simply okay, at best.

Shooters was written by Eric S. Trautmann and Brandon Jerwa and illustrated by Steve Lieber. Published by Vertigo comics, you can ask for it now at your local comic book shop or support Spandexless by buying now from the sidebar or our Amazon web store.