Reviewer: Eden Zacarias
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
Genre: Graphic Novel
Release Date: Available Now
You know you found an amazing graphic novel when the story grabs a hold of you so tightly that you can’t put it down or even want to once you open it. Like many comic collectors and hardcore comic junkies, like myself, my growing library of favorites that fall into the category I just described continues to grow and even more so when works like Joshua Dysart and artist Alberto Ponticelli’s Unknown Soldier: Haunted House comes along. Consider this one of this year’s most poignant, frightening and outstanding comic series that deserves to be in your library.
Unknown Soldier tells the story of Doctor Lwanga Moses who fled Uganda with his family when he was 7-years old when the Tanzanian soldiers and a formidable group of Ugandan exiles forced the Idi Amin Dada Oumee out of their soil. He has since became a pillar of his community as an African-American and later graduating from Harvard Medical School. Yet he has always considered himself a son of Uganda and, along with his lovely Ugandan wife Lwanga Sera, they join the Humanitarian Affairs relief effort in Kampala to treat patients in the nearby Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp.
Conditions have not improved one bit even with the change in government and the atrocities have become way too common in the region as the two doctors can see as they treat children who have been mutilated and disfigured by rebels. Then, one day, a group of children cry out for help when they were attacked by a small group of armed rebels who have taken the sister of one of the boys. Moses carelessly runs into the clearing where he is confronted by children with guns. As he watches as one of the soldiers that helps guard the camp get shot to ribbons and the young girl an obvious victim of rape, Moses reacts violently and ends up killing one of the young rebels with his own gun.
Out of despair and not fully understanding the voice in his head that made him react, the good Doctor begins to disfigure his own face to make the voice stop. When he wakes up, he finds his face bandaged and under the care of a kind Australian nun who overseen an orphanage for girls. Meanwhile, back in the IDP camp, Sera is worried about her husband as she contacts official channels asking for help. In a town not too far away, two American men confront another man named Jack Lee Howl who is definitely a “company man” who is asked to locate Dr. Lwanga.
When a raid on the orphanage by a Christian rebel group kick starts that angry voice inside him, Moses takes action only to be captured by the rebels. Dressed in a priest’s clothes – seeing as this is the only men’s clothing the Sister had – he is mistaken for a man of the cloth and is unharmed. It is in the rebel camp that he meets the leader, a cruel man who with a twisted sense of faith in God, who tells them that his men need wives and will not let the orphan girls go. It is then that the voice returns and guide’s Moses’ hand to kill again. As he works to get those girls out of the rebel camp, he loses count of how many rebels he kills.
What is the voice he keeps hearing and why does Moses have horrible nightmares of him breaking his own beloved wife’s neck? For that matter, why does he experience strange flashbacks of his past in America and of strange experiments that might have been done on him? More importantly, how does a medical doctor become an experienced killing machine? These are the questions that plague Moses as he gets the girls back to the orphanage and he is finally reunited with his sweet wife.
When the rebel leader makes his way into the IDP camp in search of Moses, the killing machine is awakened again as Moses accepts his dark side to take out the remaining rebels and face off against the leader. In the end, what was once Lwanga Moses is gone and in his place is an unknown warrior that will not stop killing until there is peace in his homeland.
With powerful imagery, great characters and an unforgettable story, Unknown Soldier: Haunted House is not only an amazing read but also a relevant work of art. This is also a great beginning to what is sure to become one of those graphic novels that will be right up there with some of the most noteworthy classics. Yes, this is high praise but if you pick this one up you will see it is praise well deserved. This is certainly on the top of our most Highly Recommended list.
COMIC REVOLUTION RATING BREAKDOWN
It’s 2002 and the northern region of Uganda is suffering the effects of the guerilla war between rebel extremists and the government yet this doesn’t stop Doctor Lwanga Moses and his beautiful physician wife from returning to their homeland to do some good. Then one horrific moment turns the kind Doctor into a disfigured killer who stands up for a group of orphans taken by a vicious Christian rebel group.
A truly visceral experience from start to finish, Alberto Ponticelli’s art certainly compliments the story well enough that sometimes words aren’t needed to convey the emotion and drama. This is great work from a brilliant artist.
Unknown Solider: Haunted House is what masterpieces are made of and it just doesn’t get any better than what Dysart and Ponticelli offers. It is, simply put, one of the most powerful, moving and utterly compelling work worthy of being on the very top of your Favorite Comic Of All Time list. Whatever you do, do not miss this amazing series.