VS: When War Is Just Another Game

VS #1

Ivan Brandon (writer), Esad Ribić (artist), Nic Klein (colorist), Aditya Bidikar (letter), Sebastian Girner (editor), Tom Muller (designer)
Image Comics
February 7, 2018

In a world where war is merely another form of entertainment, Satta Flynn, an experienced soldier, navigates through the fame and violence that come as a result of it. Complete with commercial breaks, product placement, and team substitutions, war has never seemed so eerily close to home on your own TV screen.

VS comic

Esad Ribić’s art is highly realistic and expressive, capturing the intensity and brutality of the characters in every scene. Desolate wastelands loom in the background, nondescript, depicting a murky world that has been thoroughly and absolutely devastated. I also have a deep appreciation for the space-scapes, which are both vast and movingly distant, and ultimately affecting. There are also a number of technologies, including spaceships, featured throughout the comic that are guaranteed to appeal to the sci-fi lover.

VS comic

The characters are notably alien, featuring blue or green skin, but are still remarkably human-esque. It’s a relief to find that the characters, especially the female ones, are not inexcusably disproportionate to the rest of their bodies. While there are some instances in the art where the body politics can be questionable, I appreciate the effort to make the female characters look like actual people rather than caricatures.

Ivan Brandon has created a comic that explores a well trodden subject, but with a unique approach. There are a number of stories where violence and entertainment are used as plot devices, and often with thinly veiled social commentary. This can at times be heavy-handed, following the idea that using violence as entertainment is wrong; readings of The Hunger Games series have used this line of thinking. VS, on the other hand, diverges from that line.

The story so far is highly character-specific, focusing on Satta and the way he is enmeshed in this eternal, fabricated conflict. Rather than spout endless tirades against the system itself, Satta is well acquainted with his role in it all. He doesn’t see himself as apart from war, which makes the entire book refreshing to read, especially when compared to thematically similar stories. Take The Hunger Games again: Katniss is starkly aware of the harm and violence she takes part in and expresses her distaste throughout the series. Satta, on the other hand, is an inveterate soldier who wants nothing more than to be on the frontlines of this conflict.

War itself can be a touchy subject, especially when creating a book dedicated to entertaining people. The trouble of glorifying violence, or using the violence of war to shock, or as a cheap ploy for more views, is rampant throughout the entertainment industry. It’s a bit early to tell the full intention of the book with its regard to violence; however, it is worth noting that the images in this book are at times soaked in blood, often from the use of force added with an exuberant gushing effect. The emphasis placed in these moments is not above questioning, and can be interpreted as a way to make a ruthless war seem “cool.”

VS comic

Grumbling aside, VS has a solid first issue. I’m interested to see where the story will lead us and what conclusions it will make about how well war and fame really go together. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they don’t go well at all, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?