Writer: Deniz Camp
Art: S. Morian
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 17th, 2022
20th Century Men #1’s main backdrop is Afghanistan in the late 1980’s, where Russia dominates the country with the help of an armored Russian “hero”. Meanwhile, an Afghan woman is harboring secrets as her country continues falling apart, and a crazed President in the USA, who used to be a Captain America-type hero, has his own agenda for Russia and Afghanistan. It’s a first issue that combines several genres and ultimately collapses under the weight of too many ideas.
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A lot of characters and situations are thrown at us in the 40 pages of 20th Century Men #1, as well as time period jumps. The bulk of the book focuses on Azra (an Afghan woman who represents the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) and Petar Fedorovich Platonov, a Russian “Diplomatic Officer” stationed in Afghanistan, who almost always wears a huge suit of armor armed to the teeth with weaponry. Guess it’s easy to be diplomatic when you can force feed missiles to anyone during peace talks.
The two have a relationship that seems to mimic their countries, with Azra needing Petar’s firepower while Petar actually seems to be smitten with her. It’s a weird dynamic and Petar, who normally seems impatient and quick to fight, is surprisingly patient with her. I feel that if Azra could steal his battlesuit and wield it herself, Petar would be the first person she’d blast into nothingness.
We get to see Petar’s armor in action against Afghan rebels, who are fighting the Russian-backed Afghan government. Petar’s armor is a nightmarish looking contraption, with a massive towering frame and long metal arms that extend out twice the length of his body, dotted with missile launchers and automatic weapons. There’s not one bit of sleekness or style to it, it’s a tank of a suit, an armageddon delivery system with Petar’s massive body controlling it.
Simultaneously in America, the President is shown briefly, and he’s obsessively anti-Russian, much like Ronald Reagan, but that’s the only similarity between the two. This President seems to be a nutjob, with hatred dialed over to 20 on a scale of 1 to 10 and fits of temper.
Beyond that, we don’t get to know him. Hopefully in future issues, we’ll get a glimpse into his past, when he was a Captain America type hero. Maybe he was genuinely a good person then, but something turned him into the ball of rage he is now.
Overall, the book is average. It didn’t give me that “have to buy the next issue” feeling, but it set up a couple of interesting situations that will play out in future issues.
S. Morian’s art on 20th Century Men #1 has a very Heavy Metal feel to it. I could easily see this story appearing in that magazine, with the grotesque way some of the characters are drawn, and the constant darkness looming in every scene.
The art style seems to shift a bit in the historical scenes. One scene set during the Vietnam War is very detailed and gory, where another scene set in 1948 seems to be in a different lighter style.
20th Century Men #1 is a daunting start to the series, hitting the reader with lots of flashbacks, characters and locations, but giving very few details on each.
Anyone who’s interested in war stories or political thrillers will like this, but for me, it just didn’t click.