It's not uncommon to find a first issue with a solicit that provides more information than the issue itself, such is the case with Apache Delivery Service #1. The solicit for the new miniseries from writer Matt Kindt and artist Tyler Jenkins emphasizes an odd-couple pairing in the midst of the Vietnam War hunting for gold from past conflicts. Almost none of this is in the issue readers discovered today. The meeting between the new partners and any mention of gold are reserved for the final few pages, opting to focus on the eponymous "Apache" fighting in Vietnam instead. One can assume this character is named Ernie based upon the solicit for issue #2, but here he is referred to only as "Apache," "son," and "killer." As the first chapter in a larger narrative, it makes for an intriguing introduction, but it's difficult to say whether there's enough here to keep readers anticipating more about an unnamed protagonist for an entire month.
Apache Delivery Service #1 is paced more like the first 24 pages of an original graphic novel and focuses on establishing its setting and mood before all else. It cuts between Ernie's life as a soldier in Vietnam in 1967 and being raised with Navajo traditions in Arizona 5 years earlier. This establishes Ernie as a solitary figure most comfortable in the wilderness, whether that means southwestern canyons or dense jungles. Jenkins artwork makes these places palpable additions to each sequence radiating warmth in daylight and making individuals like Ernie seem small in their surroundings. The feeling of loneliness is powerful and only enhanced by Ernie's other experiences.
The miniseries' title is found much sooner than any proper nouns as a splash panel reveals a bomb labeled "Apache Delivery Service" being dropped on coordinates provided by Ernie. He is sent as a tracker to discover North Vietnamese forces and relay their positions for aerial assault. Despite all of the value he brings to his unit, when he does return from a sortie no one even uses his name, opting to define him by his heritage and nicknames instead. These moments are every bit as isolating and serve to craft a clear perspective for Ernie. No loyalty is owed to either side in this war; he is simply trying to survive the experience.
Jenkins leaves no room for doubt about the terror and trauma inflicted on the front lines of Vietnam. As Ernie clambers through the jungle at night and discovers mutilated corpses (after contributing to the creation of many more), readers are left to witness a frightening experience. Dialogue is only used when characters have good cause to speak and so readers are left to parse the silent odyssey through a jungle where fatal intentions run rampant. It's disquieting to say the least.
That eerie mood combined with the very beginning of a character study is enough to keep me interested in wherever Apache Delivery Service might be leading. The series initial pitch seems disconnected from its actual focus. This is a story about an isolated soldier left in the wilderness who discovers new depths of horror in the Vietnamese jungles – a potent pitch. Yet the slow pacing of this debut combined with a general disinterest in establishing any narrative until the final few pages, makes this read more like a preview than the first quarter of a miniseries. Existing fans of Kindt and Jenkins are bound to stick around, already knowing how these two tend to deliver on every big idea they imagine, but it's more likely that new readers will opt for the collection if they stick around.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On January 5, 2022
Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Tyler Jenkins
Colors by Hilary Jenkins
Letters by Tyler Jenkins
Cover by Tyler Jenkins