28 March 2016

FWS Comic Review: DRAFTED: The Essential Edition (2011)

Often military science fiction war stories have an unknown alien threat uniting the world under the banner of survival of the species. Much like World War II, millions if not billions enlist, to fight for the human race and their way of life. While this is a compelling reason for your future war, it has also been done to death, and originality is the order of the day. So, will the 2007 mini-series Drafted offer something different? Let us find out.

What is Drafted?
Drafted was originally an 10 part mini-series developed by Mark Powers and Chris Lie for Devil’s Due Publishing in 2007.  It was acclaimed at the time, with several collector editions being issued along with a one-shot comic featuring President Obama. Devil’s Due Publishing has been teasing the return of the comic for some time. Sources conflict if the comic will be rebooted or the new issues will be an continuation. The graphic novel that combines the mini-series opens with Earth as we know today, and we are introduced the cast of characters that we will be following throughout the story: an artist, Israeli soldier, President of the US, the First Lady, an New York City brother and sister, three holy men, and a EMT, an female Afghan guerrilla, and a noted psychologist. As the book opens, wild earthquakes, sandstorms, and nosebleeds are happening across the globe. Then the alien coalition make an appearance and tell the peoples of Earth simultaneously that war is coming and that all people of Earth will be needed for the coming war. Millions are teleported away like the Rapture to an awaiting massive alien starship. This is basic training, and it conducting by an armored alien warrior. Drafted then moved to tell the tale of both the people drafted and the people left behind as the war against the Worldeaters unfoldes.  

While the basic concept behind Drafted is familiar and derivative (like most sci-fi), the core characters are well done and developed along with the presentation of the world as a whole. It those central characters that save Drafted from being typical and common, along with how those characters interact with the story and events. Most military sci-fi stories focus on the soldiers and their experiences in war, while some MSF works cover the events back home. But in Drafted, the "homefront" is explored in direct manner with characters and event we care about and it helps round out the whole story. Due to the way that the soldiers are drafted by the aliens similar to the Christian Rapture, families are torn apart, and since there is a lack of communication, the soldiers and their bewildered families wonder and struggle separately during the war. Very powerful and compelling stories here. We also get to the affect these millions or billions being drafted in extraterrestrial military service has on Earth. Two other elements I very much enjoyed was the use of psychic weaponry and not following the familiar arch of military characters. Most military sci-fi stories has the soldier going from the civilian world to basic to advanced training and then the first taste of combat that takes the lives of some of the original characters. Then the veteran characters return home which has changed along with themselves. This is followed somewhat in Drafted, but it mainly happens off-the-page and the overall story of the soldiers is less formulaic than other MSF works I've read.

This may be highly subjective, but I feel that the original art style in the first issues is just not good for a transmitter of the story and setting. Detail is lacking, and it is too cartoony to be taken completely serious. It does not help that one of the main characters is too manga for his own good, along with reminding me of Gear School. During the latter portions of the graphic novel, the art switches to a more realistic and grittier style, but the art lacks contrast and appears too dark. This is a minor bitch here, but things like this bother me: wrong weapons. During the early portion of the book prior to the drafting, Afghan fighters and American Special Forces are both drawn with the wrong weapons. The Afghans are armed with CAR-15 like Commando Carbines and the American Special Forces team sent into sand covered Jerusalem wields AKS74s with all manner of goodies on them, which the US SOF units would not be using. One of my big complains with the graphic novel is the big bad enemy of the aliens that came to Earth to draft soldiers for the interstellar war: the worldeaters. They are nasty looking space worms that appear conjured from HR Giger’s daydreams and are too over-the-top for their own good, and lack any kind of military presence or realism. Also, this design of the Worldeaters lack the foundation for the big plot twist at the end of the graphic novel.

Towards the very end of the graphic novel, within the last five to six pages, there is a major plot twist that is both unsupported, a far-too-common trope, and is sadly predictable. That is only part of the issue with the twist. Any major twist to the setting that the story and characters operate in is risky and needs to be handled with care and consideration. None of those are present here. There is simply no supporting evidence or foreshadowing in Drafted to support the twist, making it hollow and stupid. You cannot just spring a major twist in the fictional reality of your work without supporting it and laying the ground work. I understand what the creators were hoping for, namely a big shock, but it does not work and it undercuts everything else established in the book. While it may have been hoped to fuel more sales for the upcoming Drafted sequels, I will not be buying it because of this twist and future creators should look at Oblivion for a good plot twist example like this. 

Should You Read Drifted?
This graphic novel is harmless overall, and it is not groundbreaking or that bad…it is simple okay with some elements, like the homefront and the friendly alien factions, being handled extremely well. To me, the end twist that reverse the basic reality the people of Earth have been operating under since the aliens showed up kills Drafted and leaves me wondering how this element got so mishandled when other elements are handled better than most MSF works. If you want to read it, don’t pay too much for it or borrow it.

What about the Rumored Movie Adaption?
In the winter of 2014, it was announced that Drafted has been optioned for development by Benderspink Productions and New Line Studios for a movie adaption. Not much has been heard since along with the reboot or continuation of the comic by creator Mark Powers. From the information I read, it seemed that Drafted could be a series of movies and could be aimed at the teen market, like Hunger Games and the recent Divergent trilogy.

Next Time on FWS...
Two terms that get thrown around a great deal in military science fiction circles is "stormtrooper" and "shocktrooper", and it is high time that FWS explore and explain these two military terms that have become standards of military sci-fi and common culture.

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