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MACHETE SQUAD by Brent Dulak Kirkus Star


by Brent Dulak & Kevin Knodell & David Axe ; illustrated by Per Berg

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-68247-100-5
Publisher: Dead Reckoning/Naval Institute Press

A U.S. Army medic cuts to the bone in a graphic memoir that takes full advantage of the form.

This book, part of the launch of a graphic imprint by the Naval Institute Press, offers a vivid, terrifying, and often beautiful illumination of one man’s cathartic experience in Afghanistan. “This place eats people.” That’s what Dulak heard when he arrived for his deployment in Afghanistan after two tours in Iraq had left him psychologically shell-shocked. He was assigned to take charge of the medical unit, but he could barely control himself: his thoughts and obsessions, his alcohol intake. He learned that his forsaken outpost was prime Taliban territory, that even those who appeared to be allies could not be trusted, that those who served with him may not be properly experienced or credentialed, and that death had an insatiable appetite. He also found himself amid a landscape of stark beauty, which inspires illustrator Berg to an unsettling juxtaposition of dark shadows and bright light, bloody carnage and natural splendor. Many of the panels have few or no words, letting the art convey the depth of the experience. It’s a collaborative effort, with journalists Knodell and Axe—who also teamed up on The ’Stan (2018), another of the first titles from this series—turning Dulak’s testimony into a taut narrative that complements the art. The story begins with the protagonist as a broken man, leaving little behind when he departed from his home in the United States for Afghanistan, and he returned as a survivor, at least partially redeemed by hope. “My memories remain vivid,” he writes at the end. “They always will. They are a part of me. But I can move on. It’s going to be okay.”

Readers will have a visceral response to the experiences shared by this searing memoir.