I always liked reading The Unknown Soldier when I was a child. I knew that I hadn't been able to read all episodes. With this Showcase edition, I've had this chance.
This is Kubert's unique creation of war espionage fiction and his dedication to the unknown soldiers who have fought in every American war up to WWII. From its very first issue Kubert places his new hero within a larger historical context: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and WWI ("They Came From Shangri-La," July, 1970). In that same issue, Kubert shows us a resourceful and courageous hero who doesn't hesitate to answer the call of duty. The US's primary motive is patriotism and a love for freedom. The US says "I've answered their call... Just as my forefathers have... for generations! Even as far back as the revolutionary war!" In the story of his origins, Kubert reveals how the hero's face was disfigured while fighting the Japanese along with his brother in the Pacific. When he is offered a Congressional Medal of Honor, the hero's patriotism is highlighted through his speech: "Before he died, my brother said that 'one man can make a difference in the right place' can affect the outcome of a battle... or war... I want to be that man! ... I want a chance to prove that Harry was right, sir... to show that he didn't die in vain!" Thus, the US stories set the tones of the war romance that characterized other DC heroes such as Sgt. Rock, The Haunted Tank, and The Losers. The US is given a mission and he accomplishes it to his satisfaction, always remembering that he does it to heighten the memories of all those who have died fighting. Other US writers Bob Haney, (Mar. 1971-Jan. 1973), Robert Kanigher's only appearance where he matches his Sgt. Rock with US (July 1971), Archie Goodwin, (Feb.-July 1973), and Frank Robbins (Aug. 1973 - Oct. 1974) and illustrators of that same period Dan Spiegle and Jack Sparling continue the tradition of the war romance established by Kubert. Even as far as August of 1974, Robbins revisits with detail the origins of the US as that hero helps out Phillipino guerrillas in "One Guy in the Right Place..."
Also Kubert consistently brings these stories into historical contexts by adding real pictures of the war along with dates of important battles. One of the most dramatic first pages are the Holocaust images of concentration camps and dead bodies, with the title Totentanz (Sep. 1971). In this story, the US makes a difference in the lives of Jewish prisoners in a concentration camp as he rescues an important leader of an underground movement who helps Jewish refugees. An example of Kubert's use of illustrations to set mood and tone to a story is his collaboration in Kanigher's only title here, "Sgt. Rock.," cited above. As the US collaborates with the Rock, Kubert fills the atmosphere with rain, dense fog, and snow to add tensions and mystery to this action-packed story. In the end, the US remains a mystery to Sgt. Rock even though the man has saved his life several times in this story. My all-time favorite Kubert cover page is #180, June 1974 where the US faces mines approaching his raft, while sharks await him in the water. The US is shown ready to jump in shark-infested waters yelling, "Floating mines! Jump... or we're dead! These war romances not only include the Holocaust but also the race issue. The US's major assistance is a black sergeant called "Cat Noir" and the story of his origins as a resistance fighter in occupied France is told in "Invasion Game." A story that deals directly with racism is told by Frank Robbins in "A Town Called Hate!" where the Germans, aware of racial tensions, use them to divide Americans there. The US soldier must step in to solve these tensions.
Starting December 1974, David Michelinie and artist Gerry Talaoc make an overhaul in the US character. They leave the "one man can make a difference" for a cynical tone and mood. While Michelinie adds a cynical tone, Talaoc draws the US to make him look like a skull, giving it an ugly and deadly appearance. Harry, important to the US's memories and patriotic motives is omitted. In "8,000 to One," Michelinie's first story, the US loses his face because of a Japanese grenade after Pearl Harbor. Frustrated because he can't recover his face, he tells us that war has "stripped away my humanity, left me with nothing but bitterness, and so I dedicated myself to the destruction of that war. Through intense training I became a human killing machine..." The following story is told with regret as he has to kill a Jewish girl to protect his cover and save 8,000 lives. In the conclusion, the US's darker tones are felt as he tells readers "Only history has a way of praising results... and forgetting the rest..." making reference to the girl he killed. Later, the US calls himself a "soulless war machine, after my specialties had become subversion, destruction, and assassination" (Feb. 1975). In "The Hero," which has an ironic conclusion, the US describes his face as a "glaring Halloween mask" (Mar. 1975). It is very likely that Michelinie's noirish tones and plots with people always trapped by their circumstances are an influence of America's reaction to the lost war in Viet Nam, which was a fact by late 1974 and 1975.