There is an idiom about those who have served coming home from combat: “They came home to exchange one war for another.” In a day and age where 22 veterans a day commit suicide, this idiom couldn’t ring more true. While patriotism and support for our troops is higher than it has been in the past, still Veterans seem to fall through the cracks as a tragic majority of the homeless population in the United States served in the Global War on Terror, and more tragic still is that the “support” provided by the VA is so disproportionate to what is needed to truly aid soldiers, that many take their lives do to their inability to transition to civilian life, and feeling alone at a place that they put life and limb on the line to defend. In a time where this is such a pressing, and sadly overlooked issue, we are reminded of its importance through the pages of Broken Gargoyle by Bob Salley.
The book starts off with this heart wrenching an powerful scene that really just sets the tone of the book. We enter on a church where a deformed veteran with a tin face is lighting candles for his fallen comrades from the war. His wife has come to him with their son in toe, and is effectively letting him know that she is taking their son and leaving till the soldier could find employment and not sit around sulking about the war. “You made it back from the war Will… You made it home to me and your son. You need to find work.” While we are shown this tragic scene, the government is putting on a parade to “honor” the heroes of that same war, but not honoring him. Apparently praise only counts for the guys who made it back in one piece.
The issue then takes us from this somber scene to action piece that introduces the Giant trenchcoated figure with a gas mask on the cover. The issue ends up following these two men, the man with the gas mask and the tin man on their respective journeys both spearheaded by the neglect their country showed to these men who lost so much in their service. The man in the mask is going around collecting misfits like him, veterans that had been forgotten or even exploited for their service and sacrifice.
This journey comes to head when the man in the mask goes to a circus where they are showcasing a veteran whose face was perminently disfigured by the war like a circus freak:
The Great War is over and many men lost their lives fighting for the freedoms of mankind. But Not All the Dead Died. Some Soldiers arrived in hell and were rejected by the Devil himself!
As the ringleader reveals the disfigured face, he’s interrupted by the masked man, revealing himself to be someone who served with this misshapen veteran. He then goes on to lecture the audience on what they’ve taken for granted, and the massive disservice and disrespect they have shown to a man who has done so much. Honestly it’s quite possibly one of the most chilling reads I have had in a long time.
On the other side of things, The tin man’s path of neglect has led him to a crossroads as well. A crossroad that puts him in direct opposition with the man in the mask, and turns brother against brother. I refuse to say more as this reveal punctuates the book perfectly.
The World War I setting of this book only adds to the message. While this is a very relevant issue today, post World War I is probably the closest to our current climate in regards to this issue. Similar to today with the ongoing Global War on Terror, World War I ended and people were proud of what their boys accomplished “over there.” However, when these soldiers came home, life had moved on without them. They were disconnected, and when you added in the physical disabilities and the trauma that came from fighting in this very grotesque and ugly war, it was not exactly what one could call a smooth transition. Then you add into the fact that this predated a grasp and understanding of psychological trauma like PTSD. So despite all the parades, and grand standing done by the communities, soldiers really were alone and I don’t think that any setting could have made this commentary near as well without feeling too on the nose or preachy.
Broken Gargoyle is an emotional thrill ride that I can say with confidence is a must read. It can be purchased/ preordered online at the Ox Eye Media Website or if you’re lucky, you might be able to pick up a copy at a local comic book store near you! Thank you so much to Bob Salley for giving me the opportunity to not only review this book, but become completely invested in yet another stellar indie book!