War is hell, but it is often the wounds that don’t physically injure soldiers that can affect their lives the most. Shooters is an important new DC Comics/Vertigo graphic novel written by Eric Trautmann and Brandon Jerwa, with art by Eisner Award-winning artist, Steve Lieber. The story in Shooters revolves around the character of U.S. Army Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer, Terry Glass’ tour of Iraq, the issues that plague his return to civilian life, and the subsequent luring of former soldiers by private contractors back into war zones. Summed up in one sentence the plot sounds relatively straight forward, but Shooters manages to navigate the plethora of complex issues faced by returning soldiers is a very real and powerful way. Shooters may be one of the most important graphic novels that has been published in a long time. Even a week after initially reading an advance copy of this work, I keep thinking about it on a daily basis.
Shooters has a place in the genre with other war books, like the classic Blazing Combat, but what sets Shooters apart is that it tells the story that probably won’t be written down in the history books– the story many of our enlisted men and women face upon their return home. Shooters is the deeply moving personal account of what so many returning soldiers face: disconnect with the families they left behind when they enlisted, physical wounds and the ones not always visible to the naked eye like PTSD and survivor’s guilt, finding work as civilians, and trying to access veteran’s services. This is the case with Terry in Shooters. Without spoiling the story, I call tell you that through uncoordinated military communications, a mission in Iraq goes horribly wrong. Terry barely escapes with his life, and is shipped home to heal and rehabilitate himself.
The life he comes home to is extremely difficult. Terry’s career and time away in a war zone have estranged him from his wife, daughter, and society in general. His physical rehabilitation is a long, hard road. Normally an independent man, in his injured state Terry feels like an unwanted burden on his loved ones. On top of all of these other factors, Terry is getting frustrated as he tries to navigate the proper channels to seek justice for his fellow fallen soldiers.
In time Terry is deemed ready to enter the workforce again, but his options are quite limited, and he may not be quite as ready as he thinks. Soon he is running short on viable options, and Terry is drawn back to what is familiar to him, accepting a position from a private contractor (Steel River Security) and heading back to Iraq.
In the wrong hands, the ambitious and moving story in Shooters could have become politicized and bogged down in agenda. This novel is not presented as an indictment of the military, but rather a nuanced look at the trials and motivations of serving men and women. Shooters is inspired by the experiences of co-writer Eric Trautmann’s brother-in-law, who lost his life serving his country. Even though Shooters is a work of fiction, it feels very real. Everything in this book, from the vernacular of the enlisted men, to the familial and personal strife, to the military’s own polished brand of bureaucracy, are all portrayed in a very organic and real manner– and all without pushing an overt agenda. Any conclusions that readers might come to are the result of honest and carefully-crafted storytelling. At a Vertigo “New Blood” panel during ECCC the Shooters creative team were present, and Eric Trautmann talked about the journey taken during the creation of this groundbreaking graphic novel. After a novel version of Shooters sat in a drawer for a couple of years, Trautmann reached out to his friend and fellow comic writer Brandon Jerwa to come in, co-write, and help adapt this important story into a graphic novel script. Add in Steve Lieber’s complementary black and white art, and Shooters turns out to be a vital “must read” graphic novel. This story is one you just can’t put down, and paints an honest and complete portrait that is all too familiar to many soldiers. We see Terry serving as an enlisted man, the trials he faces trying to re-enter civilian life as he seeks military justice for his fallen troops, the effects on his relationship with his family, and finally we see Iraq through the different (but in many ways similar) eyes of a private contractor. This story should be required reading for everyone, and I just can’t recommend Shooters highly enough. Eric Trautmann, Brandon Jerwa, and Steve Lieber, should be extremely proud of their honest and nuanced work in Shooters. At $22.95 for 144 pages of exquisite, hardcover graphic novel storytelling, this book should be on everyone’s pull list when it is released this week (April 18th).
If you are curious to learn more about Shooters, please check out the “Unofficial” Official Home Page for Shooters, the Steel River Security website, as well as our interview with co-writer Brandon Jerwa, here on ComicBooked.com.