Graphic Novel Review: Unknown Soldier Vol. 2: Easy Kill

Unknown Soldier Vol. 2 Easy Kill

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Alberto Ponticelli & Pat Masioni
Colors by Jose Villarrubia
Letters by Clem Robins
Covers by Dave Johnson

$17.99 / 200 pages / Color / Softcover

DC Comics / Vertigo


When I first read Unknown Soldier in issues, I stopped, because it was just too depressing. But then I got the first trade, and I realized what I’d been missing.  At the time, I said I didn’t really enjoy it, but it was very good, if that makes sense to you.  I was glad to have read it, but it was so dark and painful that it wasn’t really a fun comic book.

The second volume “Easy Kill” might not be fun yet, but I have to say, it was fairly enjoyable this time around.  Writer Joshua Dysart established his world in the first six issues, he covered a lot of ground, and it strongly relied on the unique and terrifying setting of war torn Uganda.  In this set of stories, we’re more able to focus on the characters, from the Unknown Soldier himself, Lwanga Moses, to the CIA lifer, Jack Howl, to Sera, Lwanga’s suffering wife.  We learn more about who they are, and what they want, and I found myself caring a hell of a lot more about them as I read through the volume.  Lwanga spent a little more time as himself, thinking about what was he’d done while under the control of the violent unknown soldier who’d take over his mind.  As a reader, I wanted him to regain control of himself, and go back to the charitable doctor he used to be.  Spending more time in his normal mindset made him more relatable than in the past, but when he reverted to soldier mode, it was all the more painful.  We still don’t know what Howl’s motivation is, but as a partner and foil for Lwanga, he’s still exactly the right spice for this story, and is absolutely needed.  Sera stands as Lwanga’s only real connection to the past, and a further emotional barb in his side has he finds himself waging a one man war, against his will, or at least part of his will.  

The bulk of the story revolves around a small group of freedom fighters who scheme to get Howl and Lwanga to kill Margaret Wells, a movie star doing charity work in Africa.  They figure her death will bring the international spotlight to their conflict, and help speed things along.  The trick is, Lwanga’s not all that sure she’s wrong.  The storyline is much more clearcut than the first volume, as well as being intriguing and genuinely suspenseful.  

Bookending that story is the tale of Paul, a former child soldier drafted by the rebels who is drawn to Lwanga, and in Paul’s sections is the real heart of this collection.  Paul doesn’t fit in at the child relief camp, and he doesn’t fit in in the outside world.  The first issue alone might be worth the price of the whole volume, but the resolution of Paul’s story is very special.  It shines a light on a different part of the world and culture, and does so beautifully.

Dysart clearly put his heart and soul into these scripts, but they would do no good without the lush artwork of Alberto Ponticelli, who makes Uganda breathe on these pages.  The violence and horror of children with guns are terrible things to look at, but the artwork does its job completely.  Paul’s journey is drawn by Congolese artist Pat Masioni, which gives it an air of authenticity and realism, which is perfect for the story. Do yourself a favor and make sure to read Pat’s history at the end of the trade.

“Easy Kill” is probably a stronger work than the prior volume, and it’s easy to see why people who find this book fall for it big time.  It’s not an easy read, but it’s a worthy read, and it’s something that deserves to be told.  I find it incredibly brave of Dysart and Vertigo to tell the story of an African, when they could have easily gone another way, and probably sold more copies, but we’re being rewarded by their choices, and these are comic books that actually say something, and actually matter.

Unknown Soldier Vol. 2: Easy Kill is available from Amazon.


  1. I look forward to eventually getting this and the previous trade. I’ve heard and read nothing but good things about this book. So many good Vertigo books, so little time. Still need to complete reading Sandman and catch up with Scalped. Thanks for the review, Josh.

  2. woot woot.

  3. I love this series and am glad to see it reviewed here. This series is one of the most haunting comics I’ve ever read. It’s probably tied for Magneto: Testament for just being a really difficult but important thing to read.

    I really like when comics are used as a tool to get attention to things beyond superheroes punching each other, even though I do enjoy that as well.

  4. Unknown Soldier goes to the top of my pile every time it comes out. Each issue has a page or a panel that just knocks me on my butt and drives home some new understanding of the characters or their situation.

  5. i have this sitting next to my bed. It’s next on my list after i finish my Wasteland collection

  6. I’m still reading this in issues, partly because I want to support it as an ongoing concern, but I still see how much better it would read as a trade (as is the curse of the Vertigo book!).  Still, it’s incredibly good all the time, and there are plenty of twists to come.  But you’re right Josh, it is certainly the most depressing book on my stack eah month.

  7. I really think it reads much better in trade form. That’s not a slight on the book, I just really enjoy it that way.

  8. I may have already been compelled to try this out as an "old school" Unknown Soldier fan.  Your review helped to nudge me into the "SOLD" column.  Thanks for sharing.

  9. Actually just picked it up today, my shop was having a sale 20% off trades.  The first trade was awesome and cant wait for this one.  I also got Mysterious the Unfathomable, All-star Superman 2, Losers vol. 1&2. good day for me.

  10. I like that we are getting more graphic novel reviews.  Thank you.

    I am planning on picking up the first volume of this as soon as I get the chance.  It sounds stupendous.  

  11. This is next on The Stack for me to read…I was really impressed by the craft of first volume – the writing was thoughtful and well-paced, and the art evocative and thorough: nearly every panel has a background (which is something these days), often teeming with detail. There is no cheating going on in the creation of this book: it is  artfully done.

  12. The 2nd arc is much better than the first in both the story and art departments, but after that the story seems to fall apart a bit, as well as the art.

  13. Been reading this in singles since the beginning, and still enjoying it.  I am sure it reads better in trade.  I will probably brush off my singles when it’s done and read the whole thing.

  14. I think it reads great as a monthly, and the great thing about buying the flopies other than supporting the book, you get your monthy fix and can always go back and reread them like a trade. That’s what I do at least. I don’t like the whole wait for the trade for the really good books mentality, I like to support them on a monthly basis.

  15. Correct me if I’m wrong, but buying books in collected form does support the book, yes? I mean, the creators and publishers make a profit on those collected editions, and presumably the publisher has built the collected sales into their business plan, because otherwise, they would be morons. I don’t like the idea that people who read the collected version, which is offered by the same people who offer the issues, are somehow less valuable as consumers.  Perhaps with some smaller publishers that’s the case, but in the case of Vertigo comics, they’re fine with you doing either.

  16. @Josh – The only way in which reading the trades would be less beneficial to the publisher/creators (aside from the direct effect of the lower price) is the time value of money.  Money today is more valuable than money 6 months from now.  If I buy an issue for $4 tomorrow, the creator gets that money earlier than if I buy the trade in 6 months.  That is assuming the creators get paid per unit rather than a flat salary.  However, with interest rates and inflation rates at such low levels, the real effect of the time difference is probably rather trivial.

  17. Sorry about that.  I get excited.

  18. My point being, if they don’t want me to buy the trade, don’t offer it.

  19. Well said.

  20. if people dont by the issues… trades dont get made… just sayin

  21. @skeets – It is my understanding that Vertigo (as an example) is a very trade heavy label.  I don’t have hard numbers, but the impression I get is that they make a relatively large portion of their money from trades.  Vertigo is going to put out that first $10 trade regardless of issue sales, because they know many of their readers only read in that format.  I would also hope that creators are intelligent enough to only sign contracts that take that into account.