The two series in G.I. Combat have always been quite separate from each other, but this month, for the first time, it was more than just their styles and concepts that distinguished them. It was the overall quality of each story, with "War That Time Forgot" delivering its weakest installment while "Unknown Soldier" had its strongest. Neither were mind-blowing and neither were garbage, but there was a clear disconnect in caliber between the two.
"The War That Time Forgot" just isn't doing anything. At all. Our three soldiers keep trying to make it through their environment without conflict, keep failing, and keep having to fight dinosaurs because of it. There is only ever a page or two of character "development" and, this month anyway, it's so bland and generic as to be totally pointless. So one of the guys like animals, and therefore isn't eager to massacre the dinosaurs. So what? It doesn't make me care about him or even really understand him any better, it's just a tiny personal tidbit which I don't need to know that is given two whole pages. After that, we get some arguing that leads nowhere, followed by some fleeing which, as always, leads to fighting. It only took three months for this story to get utterly repetitive and boring.
Ariel Olivetti's art, which I've been enjoying up to now, also takes a dive this month because we get far more pages of the humans than the giant lizards. Olivetti's soldiers are unrealistically muscular and unnecessarily grim in their appearance, almost incessantly baring their teeth and scowling. It makes them seem like assholes, frankly, which does little to help my lack of interest in their fates. Let the dinosaurs eat them, I say. I'd almost rather have this series without them, anyway.
Luckily, "The Unknown Soldier" comes at the end of the issue and is a big step up. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray let us in on the title character's internal monologue, and it adds a lot. As the Unknown Soldier carries out his mission, we get to hear how much he enjoys all the high-tech weapons he gets to play with. And then, when those gadgets are all used up and he's still being faced by a horde of enemies, we get to see how little he needed the high-tech stuff in the first place. It's a strong dynamic, the caption-and-explosion-filled pages next to the silent, bullet-riddled ones, and something I hope we see more of.
Dan Panosian's art may be the strongest single aspect of G.I. Combat #3, however. He manages to reign in the gore ever so slightly this issue, and it helps to make the violence grittier and more realistic, which I think the title needs. And just like we as readers are finally in the Unknown Soldier's head, Panosian seems more at ease drawing him. His rage, his sadness, even his one panel of fleeting fear are all perfectly rendered. The same is true of the adolescent, self-important smugness of the teens at the end. While their dialogue all by itself would seem a little watered down, the artwork enriches the words and deepens the significance of the scene.
I am assuming that both of these stories have end points in mind and will then be replaced by other series while the book itself keeps the name G.I. Combat. Hopefully, "The War That Time Forgot" can get there sooner than later, but as far as "Unknown Soldier" is concerned, if it can keep building on what it did this month, I'm in for the long haul.