Forever War #3 (Titan Books)
The Forever War is one of those seminal science fiction books that everyone should read and I’m kinda glad it’s being turned into a comic – the more places this story is told, the better.
Written back in 1974, the story is about a marine sent into deep space to fight a war he doesn’t really understand against aliens he might never see. Most of the first few chapters deal with military culture and the idea of taking planets that are utterly inhospitable to human life. When our hero finally sees action things go wrong and when he’s served his term the military offers to extend his contract, but all he wants to do is go home.
The problem is a simple one: you can never go home again. Anyone who’s traveled knows that things change in your absence and that the place you left is never the place that you return to. This is further complicated by dwindling resources and evolving societal trends, so the world our hero comes back to is more alien to him than the aliens he was fighting. He eventually re-enlists, because while war is hell it is, at least, familiar.
It’s all the more interesting in that author Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam veteran, one of those war heroes that conservatives like in concept but rarely in practice. The story hits that line, with many classic space opera tropes turned on their heads: the war is a meaningless one, the inciting moment an accident that those with more greed than sense used to line their own pockets.
The book is one of those quietly influential stories, a Nebula-award winning tale that really should be taught in schools. As recently as March 2017, the book was referenced in the New York Times by writer Brian Castner, who said “The longest conflict in American history – from Afghanistan to Iraq, to high-value target missions throughout Africa and the Middle East – has been nicknamed the Forever War. Our country has created a self-selected and battle-hardened cohort of frequent fliers, one that is almost entirely separate from mainstream civilian culture, because service in the Forever War, as many of us call it, isn’t so much about going as returning.”
It should be noted that this comic has seen light before: Joe Haldeman did script out a comic that was illustrated by Marvano and published by NBM Publishing almost thirty years ago, but this is the first time we’ve gotten fresh prints of the tale in English since that time (there was a collected edition back in 2002, but it was only in French).
For those of us that are interested in the world we live in and the truth of what combat looks like and the difficulties of coming home, this is the cautionary tale we need. This story is an important one, a stark and honest report written by a veteran of a horrific war fought for reasons no one really understands except those that profited from it – the inciting incident of the greed-inspired wars that America is fighting today and reaping the consequences of.