Obscure Comic of the Month is a column where I take a look at a comic or series that hasn't really been talked about. This covers independent comics, zines, weird spin-offs, webcomics and more.
Acceptable Losses by Joe Glass, Danny Flores and Moose Baumann - 2020 Queer Comix
Contains Heavy Spoilers
Last year I spoke very highly of Joe Glass' seminal superhero deconstruction The Miracles, and so today I'm taking a look at one of his smaller works, the self-contained one shot, Acceptable Losses, a comic that is probably easiest to describe as What if Captain America Became The Punisher?
The story of Sam Tyler, AKA superhero super-solider U.S Eagle begins in medias res as he undertakes a mission in the Middle East to eliminate a dangerous terrorist leader. Deliberate parallels to the hunt for Bin Laden are obvious here which we'll dig into more later. Tyler's mission goes awry, however, in part due to his unwillingness to endanger civilians in the crossfire, including a nearby school. Meanwhile mission command, overseen by the all too believable Senator McKeen, has little concern for collateral damage, the titular 'acceptable losses.'
As the terrorist leader looks to slip out of Tyler's grasp, McKeen orders an air strike, seemingly killing the hero alongside innumerable civilians, children included. From this opening sequence it is very clear the type of story that we are in for here, and the perspective in which it views the 'necessity' of the 'war on terror.'
Tyler, of course, didn't die, and the story's focus shifts to cover an extended revenge scene carried out against McKeen interspersed with flashback as Tyler is nursed back to health by the very people that he was deployed to treat as 'enemies of America.' What follow is a gorgeous, if extremely brutal and harrowing, sequence of events which Danny Flores' art and Moose Baumann's colours are expressly suited to. As the story jumps between the dark night of revenge to the comfortable browns of Tyler's recovery, it is almost sub-textually saying that we cannot view geopolitics in simple black and white.
This is easily the darkest of Glass' stories so far, and sits at an interesting point between his more optimistic and celebratory stories from The Pride, to his idealistic but still more grounded and pragmatic work in The Miracles. The story is vicious in it's storytelling, and definitely feels like somewhat of a rebuttal to modern superhero stories being muted and soft in their criticisms of American foreign policy and unquestioned patriotism.
As a one shot the story is sharp and to the point, done in one and complete in it's message. In all respects but one does this work in it's favour, but if I had to levy one criticism at the story it would be that the later reveal that Tyler and his 'inside man' Private Krinsky are in a relationship together, is covered somewhat too briefly, if for no other reason that so many incredibly interesting stories could be spun off from such a twist.
The depiction of a gay Captain America is not something that is particular new (look to Andrew Wheeler's Soldier Sailor for another such example) but the idea of one explored through the Acceptable Losses' grounded and gritty lens would certainly be a unique one. Still, that's far from a deal-breaker, and if anything it feels as though Glass has more of these types of stories in him, it just being a question of when he's ready to write them.
Acceptable Losses is a brutal bullet to the head of a comic that doesn't pull any punches. If you felt like bigger franchise fair has been skirting round the subject of the war on terror for a while now, then this is a fine antidote.
Jack Harvey 2023. Acceptable Losses (c) 2020 Queer Comix. Images used under Fair Use.