America's Army, the long-running videogame franchise that's also an Army recruiting tool, is now available in an all-new form: An online comic book.
The digital comic book, or "graphic novel" as the snooty muckety-mucks like to say, spins the tale of a U.S. Army humanitarian mission to the Democratic Republic of the Ostregals, which is being overrun by the genocidal forces of Czervenia. To monitor the unfolding situation the Army sends in a Long Range Surveillance team, but the secret they stumble upon is deadlier than anyone could imagine!
It's pure propaganda, of course, touching on all the requisite bases: The new guy being ribbed (affectionately) by the other members of the squad, an quick-but-inspiring talk with Sarge on the way into battle, a heroic moment under fire and ultimately, a clap on the back and hearty acceptance as one of the team. There's even a Gears of War joke to remind everyone that today's Army is hip.
What I'm looking forward to is the reaction of groups who have strongly criticized America's Army for suckering dim-witted kids into thinking that military service is like a videogame. In March, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, one-time candidate for the Democratic party's Presidential nomination, requested that funding for the "Virtual Army Experience" be cut, saying it gives kids "as young as 13 years old a naive and unrealistic glimpse into the world of soldiering." Can we expect a similar reaction about a comic book or are videogames a uniquely threatening menace?
One more surprising point: The rah-rah recruitment angle notwithstanding, America's Army: The Graphic Novel is actually pretty good. The art is solid and the script is no worse than anything Marvel puts out on a monthly basis. I never would've expected it but this was actually kind of a fun read and might even be worth following - unlike certain other game-based digital comics I could mention.