Atlas at War! contains 50 war comics that initially ran from 1951 to 1960. The comics are raw and violent—just like the wars they depict. They are definitely not politically correct, especially to the villains of World War II and the Korean War. However, the stories give us an opportunity to see into the American mind circa the 1950s, when “death and life were cheap…as cheap as the pressure of a finger on a trigger!”
War is hell. Humans are not inherently murderers. Therefore, their enemies during war must be portrayed as demons or worse. And there must be an evil goal of the enemy that is even worse than the war itself. World War II was fought to prevent Germany from taking over the entire world. The Korean War was waged to prevent the “commies” from doing the same. Because the US joined WWII at the last possible second, we have been overcompensating at every battle since by trying to stop potential dictators before they have won their first country. Unfortunately, “potential dictator” is not well-defined.
If you understand the underlying psychology in play in these comics that I have described above, the stories make more sense in our times now. Most of the plots martyr murderers. They are also really racist. North Koreans are colored yellow. Both the “commies” and the Nazis look like devils from a horror movie with tiny sharp teeth and wild-looking eyes.
However, despite the flaws I listed earlier, I really enjoyed many of these short tales. Most are narrated by either an unseen omniscient person or by the soldier himself as if describing what happened to his buddies back at camp. There are few dialogues. The artwork was descriptive rather than artistic. But after experiencing what the characters go through, you can see why 1950’s culture was so regimented. Everyone had a role to play. The dad worked while the mom kept the house and raised the kids. Order, after all, is the opposite of the chaos of war.
If you enjoy war stories or want an inside look at the 1950s male mindset, you will adore Atlas at War! 4 stars!
Thanks to Dead Reckoning, Naval Institute Press, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.