By Guy Aoki
After almost eight months, the six-issue DC Comics mini-series, “Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion,” is finally over—the last issue in the supposedly monthly schedule coming out two, three months late last week. It wasn’t worth the wait.
As I’ve alluded to in the past, reading this was like walking through a snow storm with quicksand-stained pants. It wasn’t something I looked forward to getting through but I bought each issue with the hope that writer/artist Billy Tucci would somehow redeem himself and rightfully put enough of a focus on the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team to make it worth my time and money. He never did.
The initial three issues were saddled with a colorist who painted everything brown and dark green. The compost issues, you might call them. Then it’s like he mixed white into the palate and we got… lighter compost. Still drab. The writing was boring—like reading a manual on how to operate military gear. It was often unclear who were the Germans, who were the Americans, whom was shooting whom, who was getting shot at, and even which were Japanese Americans!
In the last issue, when looking at a two-page spread, I often read one page at a time, not realizing I should’ve read across to the second page. The layouts were that bad too. In the first issue, a white southerner gets into a scrap with one of the Japanese American soldiers. You believe it’s a set up for the man to later respect him. If it came to pass, it wasn’t clear: If it didn’t, it was a wasted opportunity. In the last issue, a white soldier salutes one of the Japanese American soldiers, but it’s not clear if this is the same guy or not. Hell, as I’ve said before, it’s often not even clear who the main character, Sgt. Rock, is. That’s how inconsistently the characters are drawn!
Each of the covers featured Sgt. Rock, sometimes alone, sometimes with others around him in battle. Not one Japanese American face. On average, our guys appeared in only three to five pages per each 22 page story. And while there was a sprinkling of Hawaiian pidgin English throughout the first few issues that gave the reader the distinct flavor of guys from Hawaii, it petered out by the last issue where the presence of the JAs was hardly felt.
Most of us know that famous story that after the rescue of the Lost Battalion, General John Dahl asked Colonel Charles Pence to assemble the entire 100th/442nd for a ceremony where they’d be recognized for their valiant efforts. When only a few showed up, Dahl berated Pence for not following his orders. The colonel replied, “This is the whole regiment.”
Of the hundreds that started out on the mission, 53 were killed and 156 wounded. I was looking forward to seeing that potentially powerful scene drawn in the final issue. Instead, we read it in a text in the second to last page (in fact, the last three pages were mostly text). On the final page, the reporter assigned to the team talks about what happened after the war and how it wasn’t until 1976 that Japanese Americans were no longer designated “enemy aliens.”
And it does end on a strong and somber note: “At war’s end, the remains of thousands of American soldiers were carefully returned to their families for reburial. But the grateful people of Bruyeres, Biffontaine and La Houssiere asked to forever watch over the Japanese Americans who gave their today for other’s tomorrows.”
“Eleven Nisei families, knowing they will most likely never visit their fallen children, selflessly consented to that honor. So my dear friend, twenty year old Barney Sakai, finally at peace, lies in a place of honor, his meticulously cared for tomb stands more hallowed, more revered and more majestic than any monument or mountain in all of France.”
And yes, in the previous issue, we did see Sakai charge the Germans in a one-man attack which inspires his fellow Japanese Americans to “go for broke.” When the Denver, Colo., native finally begins to succumb to his wounds, the reporter writes: “Never had they seen such courage, determination and force of will in the face of unbelievable odds.”
One of Sakai’s Hawaiian counterparts exclaims, “Yo wen’ broke open da ‘hole centa—you wen’ save our ass, Barney!”
Sakai responds, “I don’t want to die, Mutt— I don’t want to die—“
Mutt reassures him, “You no goin’ die, ya dumb kotonk. You goin’ live! You goin’ live and I goin’ teach ya how for play da ukulele. I promise, you, brother! I promise.” Sakai dies.
It was the strongest moment in the entire series. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of these moments to carry it. Despite all the time Tucci spent with the surviving members of the 100th/442nd getting to know them and researching their background, I believe he failed them: They remained background players in their own story
This Is News? Department: For the past month and a half, People Magazine has placed Jon and Kate Gosselin on their cover continuously- either as the main subject or on the right hand column as a sub-cover story. Each time, there isn’t any big story other than their fading marriage because of rumors that Jon’s been unfaithful.
The kicker was the June 15th cover: “Jon Gosselin finally opens up about the crisis consuming his marriage.” Yet when you read inside, the writer notes that Jon’s received training in how to deal with the media and to avoid answering questions in any meaningful way.
“As a result, when asked about the status of his relationship with Kate, 34, how it reached such a crisis point, and even whether or not he still loves his wife, he offers the same response: ‘It’s a private matter, and we’re discussing it privately.’ Will he and Kate work on repairing their marriage? ‘That’s a private matter,’ he says pointedly. ‘And we’re discussing it privately.’”
Doesn’t stop the magazine from running six pages on the “story.”
Borrrring. This Monday, the couple, who recently announced they were getting a divorce, issued statements saying they would no longer be talking about their relationship in the press. Just as well. Otherwise, we’d have to put up with more six-page stories in People with them giving a variation (or not) or the same statement Jon just gave that reporter!
Still, as someone assessed, the publication keeps the couple on their cover because they apparently have proven to be a popular subject. So, white America following the story of an Asian American male who hasn’t committed a crime, though perhaps adultery, and has more supporters because his wife has a reputation of being a nag and media-attention-whore. Huh. Not so bad.
Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.