REVIEW: ‘Broken Gargoyles,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Broken Gargoyles #1
Content Warning: This article references physical and psychological trauma due to military service.

Broken Gargoyles #1 is published by Source Point Press, written by Bob Salley, art by Stan Yak, colors by Robert Nugent and Marco Pagnotta, cover colors by Juan Fernandez with lettering by Justin Birch. World War I has ended. Men and women have sacrificed much for the peace of the world. Many have died. Others returned with their lives intact, but everything else shattered by their experiences. To make matters worse, the world they gave so much for has chosen to forget them.  Now they struggle with the after-effects of their time overseas. But some of these men, have had enough.

Americans are often known for having a tendency to love things only when it is most convenient for them.  When a situation is bringing them what they desire, they are all for it. But when it becomes something harder to deal with, or they themselves must give back to it, instead of getting from it, their interest tends to falter. Nowhere is this tendency better highlighted than in how it often treats it’s serving men and women.

People love the parades and fireworks. They love to puff up their chests when an aircraft carrier is in port, or the Blue Angels are doing a flyover at the Super Bowl. But when you want to talk about increased veteran’s care or better psychological help for those scarred by doing this duty they were taught they should be so proud of. So many suddenly don’t have time.

They ask millions of young men and women to do a terrible thing and act like the privilege of having their body damaged, their minds scarred, and a couple of parades a year in their honor should be all the thanks required.  People are so fixated on the fantasy of American armies riding off to save the world in glory that the reality of what it costs those who serve makes them uncomfortable. And if we’ve learned anything about the bulk of Americans lately it’s when something makes them uncomfortable they just wait for the hashtag to stop trending, and then move on with their lives.

Broken Gargoyles #1 focuses its narrative on two former soldiers trying to find a way through post-service life. They find themselves living in a world that has left them behind. The first we are introduced to is William Manco, formerly of the 117th Infantry Regiment. The left side of his face is hidden behind a metal plate. A further honor his wartime service has provided him. When we meet him his wife is in the act of taking their son and leaving him. They can’t pay the bills anymore and William can’t find work. While we see William has developed a penchant for drinking, it is unclear whether the drinking is why he can’t get work, or the stress of not getting work has driven him to drink. Whatever the case, William isn’t the only one suffering in this poignant introduction. His wife and child are clearly equally hurt and struggling. It is a somber introduction to this reality.

Broken Gargoyles #1

Broken Gargoyles #1 cuts away from this bitter moment to take us to the deserts of Arizona. A military convoy is traveling with cargo bound for parts unknown. However, it runs afoul of our second main character. This is one Douglass Prescott. He is also formerly of the 117th, and his feelings about how his nation has forgetter him are a bit less passive than William’s. Claiming the convoy is in possession of materials belonging to the men of the 117th Prescott leads an assault on the convoy. The skirmish is short and Prescott, with some unforeseen aid, manages to secure his cargo.

The last act of our story takes us to a circus. The highlight of this particular performance is it’s “Freak Show”. Human beings treated as less than for the amusement of others. This is a sequence that is heartbreaking for me. But, an all too real part of the circus culture that was America at that time point. Why precisely the story takes us here I won’t say, but it adds only further to the heartbreak of the moment.

The storytelling of Broken Gargoyles #1 is a hard thing to go through. There are more moments than what I’ve covered, and none of them are what you’d call happy. Salley’s writing wades into hard territory, and it refuses to flinch. Demanding that the audience be willing to do the same. With its intense emotional tones, it would be understandable for the expectation of the art to be particularly brutal. Especially when the violence starts. Happily, Yak’s art doesn’t choose this path. Opting instead for letting what is happening to be the tragedy. Focusing on the emotion of key moments, instead of leaning into graphic details keeps the story centered on the people. Going overboard on the violence or any of the visuals would’ve pushed the focus from that. And the emotion is right where this story needs to focus. The coloring in the book further helps heighten the emotions and tone of the narrative. They work well with the story, while again avoiding taking anything too far.

Lastly, we have the letters. The letter work here is nicely done, and I particularly want to praise Birch’s design of Prescott’s dialogue bubbles. As the character is never seen without a gas mask on, Birch took extra steps to make his dialogue unique. While I can’t say exactly why the instant I saw the design my brain put a sound to the voice reminiscent of Darth Vader. That partially mechanical tone as the character’s voice is filtered through the tube of his mask. It adds incredibly to his dialogue. Particularly with a certain speech he gives near the end of the book.

Broken Gargoyles #1 ended up delivering far more than I expected. When I first saw the cover I figured it for another grizzled story of hard heroes stoping generic bad guys from doing bad things. It is not that at all. It is something far, far better instead.

Broken Gargoyles #1 is available soon.

5

TL;DR

Broken Gargoyles #1 ended up delivering far more than I expected. When I first saw the cover I figured it for another grizzled story of hard heroes stoping generic bad guys from doing bad things. It is not that at all. It is something far, far better instead.