What do Deathstroke, Captain Marvel, Batwoman, and Nick Fury all have in common? While yes, all of them are characters in comics, they also share another bond despite being from different publishers. They are all Veterans of the United States military. Now, how has this common bond affected the characters and their stories? Well, that’s the premise of Jason Inman’s latest book Super Soldiers.
The book is a deep dive into various characters from comics and looks at how their service has affected them. Inman combines this analysis with his own personal stories to express that the underlying theme is applicable to modern vets. Inman is an Army veteran that deployed to Iraq in 2005, but he has done a lot after his service as well.
He has worked as a writer on Good Mythical Morning and Screen Junkies. Been the host for DC All Access and the podcast Geek History Lessons. He has also co-created and co-wrote the comic series of Jupiter Jet and Science! Some like myself, might have seen him compete on The Ultimate Movie Trivia Schmoedown, made most famous by this clip:
The book acts as a deep character study. Inman spends each chapter on a character and a specific trait that the character represents. He starts it off with the most famous comic veteran Captain America. Then the book progresses to other well-known characters like Punisher, Captain Marvel, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan and Jon Stewart), and War Machine. He also includes characters that may not be well known to the average reader. Characters such as the villain Nuke, the bully turned hero Flash Thompson, the determined Grave Digger, and the one character that everyone knows but never thinks of Beetle Bailey.
The book never feels like an encyclopedia. As Inman covers not just the history of the character but looks at their evolution across time. The best example of this is the chapter on John Stewart. Originally the character was introduced in the ’70s as an architect that questioned authority but was changed in the Justice League animated series of the early 2000s. Now Stewart was a Marine.
Inman also tells his own stories from his service to help the reader understand that the experiences of these fictional veterans are grounded in reality. If you doubt this then you should read the chapter on Beetle Bailey. The only character that’s neither a hero nor a villain. Rather he is the slacker that plays jokes, and every veteran has stories of jokes played on each to help relieve stress. Inman relates to this by telling the story of how his unit started to tag the name of a Non-Commissioned Officer Sucks. At every base, they went to in Iraq. To the point where when they arrived at a base they haven’t been to, yet the tag had already been placed there by another unit. So to any Iraq vets that remember seeing a name Sucks at various bases, here is the origin.
Now Inman is not glamorizing all the characters or life in the military. He does show that some characters like Flash Thompson are positive examples of what can happen because of the military. He also shows that there some negative effects that can happen like with Nuke. Or even show the blemishes of the US history with Isaiah Bradley, who was an African American in WW2 that was a test subject for the Super Soldier serum before Steve Rogers. Or Batwoman, who was a star cadet at West Point until her being a lesbian was discovered and she was given a choice. Either lie and say that she was not gay or be kicked out under “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.”
The mix of the character’s history, analyzing their personality, and his own stories make the book and easy read. But also one that you don’t want to put down to see what the next character is and how they have been influenced by their service. My only real complaint is that it feels too short. I felt myself wanting Inman to also compare the character across media. Like how does MCU support or change characters like Captain America or War Machine? But Inman primarily focuses on the characters original medium of the comics.
Now along with the character specific chapters, there’s an honorable mentions section that highlights other veteran characters that Inman felt either had a theme that was already covered or he couldn’t give the character justice. There’s also a suggested reading section. In it, Inman gives recommendations on further reading to better see these characters expressing what he means.
Originally I was looking forward to seeing his views on the Punisher, as that character has become an icon in recent years. Yet I found the two chapters covering Grave Digger and Flash Thompson to be the most compelling. Grave Digger was a WW2 soldier who found himself dealing with the racist attitudes of the era because he was black. But he fought, both literally and figuratively, to be able to fight.
But the chapter on Flash Thompson was the one that resonated more. Inman explains the epic arc that Flash undergoes. Starting as an abused child who bullied Peter Parker yet idolized Spider-Man, to serving his country, then being offered the chance to be more after his service, and becoming a hero that Spider-Man respected.
is a must read for not just comic book fans that want a more in-depth look at some of their favorite characters. But also for writers that want a critical look at how to handle characters that have been either in the military or in war. It will look great on any bookshelf and offers an easier to understand the knowledge of famous characters. I give Super Soldiers
5 out of 5. You can find Super Soldiers
for digital or hard copy.