“The Devils” – A G.I. Gary Comic Review
“The Devils” – Issues 1 and 2
Story: Matthew Spradlin
Art: William Allan Reyes
Coloring: Archie Van Buren
Do you like War Comics? Do you like Horror Comics? Do you like comics based on true events?
Well, “The Devils” checks all those boxes.
“The Devils” is inspired by true events that took place during World War II, the Battle of Ramree Island. During that encounter, the XV Indian Corps, accompanied by the British Allied, laid siege and invaded the island. During the invasion, they forced 900 Imperial Japanese soldiers into a mangrove swamp, as the Japanese had only one way of rejoining a larger force on the other side. The unique part of this battle is the saltwater crocodile attacks that occurred in the swamp over the course of the skirmish. By some accounts it decimated the 900 man battalion. The impetus of the tactical withdrawal is where “The Devils” starts its story.
Matthew Spradlin spares no time getting the reader up to date with what is going on with the two forces on the island. He introduces us to select individuals on both sides to focus his story. He uses Private Wright, a British naturalist, as the moral center of the Allied Forces. We learn about what the Allied forces have been dealing with through him. The Japanese have a larger cast with Commander Suguru, an evil leader of the retreating Japanese force. Also in the Japanese army are Taki and Yabu, two soldiers who aren’t morally reprehensible like their commanding officer. They are our lens for the central action of the story.
Commander Suguru’s actions throughout his tenure start manifesting as angry spirits who have been wronged by the Japanese Imperial Army. Taki and Yabu start seeing and hearing them as they approach the swamp. Because they are at odds with their commander, they do not advise him of the dangers of what they are approaching. Once the Japanese enter the swamp, the horrors manifest as the crocodiles attack, and the horror nature of the story takes lead over the war side.
Spradlin manages to maintain a good balance with what is going on on the island. The course of events follows logically, and he foreshadows well. He comes across a little heavy handed with addressing morality between Suguru and Allied forces versus Taki and Yabu and Private Wright. However, I understand that part of that was to set up a more supernatural effect to explain the massacre underway by the crocodiles. His dialogue flows well, with some common tropes being used. He scripts a very adult story, with themes, situations, and language that earn the “Mature Content” disclaimer.
William Allan Reyes’ art has clear manga influences. His character shape gives way to inking that lends a primal feel. The art is not at all cartoony, a very clean,mature feel. The layouts are fair. His action panels and full page spreads are spot on. The jungle looks menacing even when still, and the action panels feel naturally energetic. The talking head panels could benefit with some better camera angles, though. Also, one common problem with war comics is that characters in uniform tend to look the same. He does better with subsequent pages as early on I did get a little confused with the Japanese soldiers, but it was much more clear by the end of issue two.
Archie Van Buren’s colors do a good job applying mood to the setting. He brings life to the natural elements with smooth transitions. He helps make the crocs look fantastic. Unfortunately, the color palette he used for the faces and uniforms appears too contrasting. I can see that he was emphasizing Reyes’ inking, but its a little jarring to my eye. Overall his colors do benefit this book.
One of the added features to this book is that Rok Comics offers an app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play store. By downloading the app to your smartphone and tablet you can hover over a page with the Rok logo and it brings the story to life by making a 3 dimensional window on the screen. To start, the app is available on an issue by issue basis, and I was unable to find it for issue 2. The animations are CGI and mimic the story. As an app, it is a great concept. It reminds me a bit of Marvel’s AR app. I can only imagine the budget that animation adds to an issue. As a longtime reader of comics, I’m not the first person that would whip out my phone to read a comic as for me, comic reading is time away from technology. However, I see great potential for this kind of story telling for newer comic readers, especially younger readers. This would be something I could look for in an all ages comic for my son to read.
I am looking forward to issue 3 of this 3 part series. This team has taken a great story concept from World War II and brought it to life. I could see this story being published in a classic war comic like “Weird War Tales.” The tale is engaging and I will enjoy seeing how Spradlin resolves it. Overall, “The Devils” gets 3.5 beers out of a 6 pack. Some layout and art improvements would easily better that.
Until next time!
Review copies of “The Devils” issues 1 and 2 provided by Rok Comics.