"G. I. Combat" #0, unlike most of the other zero issues hitting stands this week, has the distinct advantage of coming in under the radar to surprise readers. Unfortunately, there isn't much of a surprise from a comic starring the Unknown Soldier.
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti surprised me with this issue a bit, but not in a good way. While I typically enjoy most things I read from the duo, the Unknown Soldier story seemed haphazardly assembled, almost as though it were two tales that didn't fill enough space individually, so they were stitched together and declared good enough. The final five pages sets the next arc in motion for the Unknown Soldier, but it comes as a severe tangent from the historical narrative that investigates the legacy of the character in the first fifteen pages. Both pieces have upside, both pieces have room for growth, but put together, the end result doesn't quite work.
Staz Johnson's figurework is strong and powerful, perfectly fitting for the battles of the Unknown Soldiers. His scratchy artwork and tendency to employ zipatone-influenced shading is masterfully suited for the mystery and uneasiness of the lead story, propelling the characters out from their surroundings, but leaving the surroundings in question through the first fifteen of the story. The final five pages have significantly more detail and lock in the surroundings as the Unknown Soldier gets prepped for his next mission.
J.T. Krul and Ariel Olivetti fill the last ten pages pleasantly enough. After all, who doesn't like dinosaurs in their comics? Other than the dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasties, like a Smilodon, this story provides a quick rundown of where our protagonist is mentally. The part that stuck in my craw is that the lead isn't named in this installment, and isn't memorable enough to me from previous installments. That just seems really odd and ill planned, especially for a #0 issue. The dinosaur scenes are mostly white noise and pretty pictures, snippets from the days/weeks/months that led up the soldier growing a beard and getting all stabby. I'm not sure where this story is going from here, but if the next issue blurb is anything to go by, we might be getting a brief hiatus from dinosaurs and saber-toothed cats.
Olivetti's art is clean and smooth and beautiful, but if you spend too much time studying it, the Smilodon looks like he's growing Stegosaurus-like plates at one point and the soldier's camouflaged pants work a little too well in other spots.
I would think that a title like "G.I. Combat" is a hard sell for DC, without a real star character on which to pin the title. "G. I. Combat" #0 does provide an interesting break from the rigmarole of superhero books, but if you don't have a vested interest in war comics or the creators specifically involved, there's not a great deal to bring you back.