War is hell. Duh, right? But for all of the wars and various crises that have happened in Marvel and DC Comics' funnybooks over the years, comics rarely touch on the actual, no-shit, grim and horrific nature of war. Generally, that's because publishing a legit war book is a quick way to end up out of business. Marvel and DC have always played it safe with their war books, churning out (let's be honest) crap like Weird War Tales and Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, which captured the flashiness and excitement of combat, but never the collateral damage.

Enter Warren Publishing's Blazing Combat. Just as Warren aped EC's horror comics (like Tales from the Crypt) in Eerie and Creepy, Blazing Combat was the answer to EC's Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat—two of the first comics to make war nasty and unpleasant. Blazing Combat's four issues are packed with gloriously miserable—if sometimes a bit heavy-handed—war stories covering everything from the battle of Thermopylae to Vietnam.

Soldiers murder unarmed POWs, get post-traumatic stress, and die alone in ditches—all beautifully captured by comics legends like Archie Goodwin, Alex Toth, Joe Orlando, and Gene Colan in appropriately murky grays. This was not the kind of thing you'd find in comics at the time, as Adam West's Batman was still biffing and zowing up television.

Because of Blazing Combat's dark, decidedly antiwar nature—released in the midst of the Vietnam War—it didn't last long. Army bases and other retailers refused to stock it. Although Blazing Combat became a casualty of war, Fantagraphics has slapped together a nice, hefty, surprisingly inexpensive hardbound collection that's worth a read, whether you're a comic nerd, war buff, one-legged veteran, or one of those snooty I-only-read-graphic-novels types. Bombs away. recommended