The single biggest problem when it comes to a new comic is keeping a consistent tone for readers to get used to. If it is changing the style and approach to things every six issues, whatever following it has built up will likely collapse around it, especially if new writers refuse to follow up on old ones. This is a problem which seems to be striking a lot of comics in the New 52 and Men of War is just one case example.
You could effectively divide is short run into two halves, the first arc titled Uneasy Company and then the various one shot ideas which followed afterwards. Whatever fandom might have started to exist with the first arc was likely swept away with the following second with constant shifts in tone, subject matter and guest starring characters who needed to stick to their own comic. None of this is to say that Men of War was without other problems or that the first arc was near perfection, simply that there’s a few obvious reasons why it failed.
The idea behind the comic was to show how the face of modern warfare might be changed with the inclusion of metahuman combatants, specifically from the eye level of a few elite grunts. While certainly an interesting idea, this idea failed for at least one good reason. It didn’t pace itself. Rather than taking the time to establish any realistic themes or ideas then introduce superhuman elements, Brandon opted to throw them in when he was barely out of the starting gate. One issue into this a red blur comes out of nowhere, crashes through the buildings, throws everything into devastation and leaves again. It doesn’t even stick with this scenario for very long and rapidly turns its attention to other points of interest, jumping back and forth between real world action and supervillains. Seriously, it goes from fighting an airborne Wonder Woman foe in the second issue to a family of bystanders being used as human shields in the third. And this is from the arc which had direct continuity between releases.
Unfortunately the very loosely linked plot is far from the end of the problems because as much as the plot tries to make them stand out, none of the characters become memorable. Besides one or two mildly amusing nicknames and Sergeant Rock’s, the protagonist, background detailing his losses at home they end up feeling largely interchangeable. Many recent comics might have problems when it comes to this but Men of War’s focus heroes fail to be interesting or even remarkable in any sense of the word. The only character who managed to have any memorable impact was Frankenstein when his comic mysteriously hijacked the eighth and final issue.
If there is one thing to really compliment about Men of War it’s that when its head is screwed on straight there are good tales to be found here. One shot story focusing upon a honourably discharged soldier being unable to adapt to life at home made for great self-contained tale. It’s just a shame it had nothing to do with what the series was supposed to be about. What’s more is that the art in every issue was consistently good. Muted when it needed to be, expressive when emotion was required and balancing out the fantastical with the realistic. If the series ever does get going again Tom Derenick is definitely the artist it would need.
To put it simply, the series needed fewer writers involved,a more consistent pace, greater continuity and a writer who has proven they candeliver with this concept. Peter David, Micah Wright or Garth Ennis certainlywould have done it justice. For this shortlived run though, ignore it and waitfor something better to come along.