Afghanistan, 2001, and the Heroic American Military™, led by Mike Battle, strike against Osama Bin Laden and his dastardly minions in a deadly battle to rid the world of evil. By writer / artist Graham Pearce's own admission, this issue is considerably less ambitious and complex than some previous Mike Battle stories, particularly the recent "Last Admin Hero" epic, but the issue also serves as a good strong reminder of this title's core strengths of solid adventure stories coupled with sharp satire.
The issue feels very much like a classic superhero comic, complete with cackling masterminds, robotic minions and absurd secret weapons, but given an extra twist by filtering it through a real world situation. There are some great ideas in here, such as the fundamentalist robot Talebandroids, a perfect blend of Avengers-esque antagonist and satirical jab, and one of the best concepts I've seen in comics all year. The comic is also packed full of neat digs at the portrayal and conduct of the War on Terror™, some broad, some subtle, but all well judged; the sequence in which our hero attempts to throw off the effects of Bin Laden's brainwashing gas (see? Brilliant!) is particularly strong, combining neat swipes at US culture (or at least, how it appears to the outside world) with snappily-paced and professional dialogue.
SMB: TGAH has always had a pleasing chunky and expressive art style, and each issue has seen the overall look become more refined as Pearce both develops as an artist, and continues to define that visual approach. This issue is no different, and there's a bold, energetic look to things. That said, I'm not sure the style Pearce has chosen is the best fit for portraying Mike's sidekick Shapely Charms and her, um, shapely charms; I wonder if it might not be more effective to use a different visual approach for the character, akin to the way Liberty Meadows visually separates its characters. But it's a minor point, and certainly doesn't ruin the comic.
The spoofing and lampoonery is turned down a tad this issue, but the enthusiastic storytelling and clever writing are more than enough to make for an entertaining comic, and there's definite worth in returning to the basic elements which made the title work in the first place, especially with the general improvement in craft that we've seen since those first issues.
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