(Don’t) Join the Army, by Darren Cullen

North America: Why Aren’t you familiar with Darren Cullen? I think he’s right up your alley.

While his previous art, available for viewing on his site, http://www.spellingmistakescostlives.com covers other subject matter, his first published book, out October 17, is (Don’t) Join the Military – an absolute assault on the eyes that blends incredible artwork, political satire, and a dark sense of humour that had me thinking all through it that he must be a veteran.

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Title: (Don’t) Join the Military
Author & Illustrator: Darren Cullen
Self-Published: October 2013
More Info: Darren Cullen’s Website: Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives

As the U.S. struggles with its ongoing war machine, here is a document that nips the syphoning of soldiers in the bud: at recruitment. Largely composed of content that mimics and mocks the recruitment-style propaganda, familiar to those of us on both sides of the Atlantic, Cullen juxtaposes biting humour (that will make you laugh out loud, as dumb as that sounds in a review) against images of war that can barely be reconciled: dismembered bodies, civilians being murdered, and soldiers having breakdowns.

The over-arching theme remains the lunacy of war, the ignorance needed to carry one out, and the level of lying and manipulation that must take place to market them.

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“I’m really interested in advertising and the gulf between the advert and the reality,” says Cullen.  “…and there doesn’t seem to be a starker example of that than when it comes to army recruitment. The adverts makes it look like a kayaking and abseiling holiday but if you join up you’re thrown into an actual hell on earth, forced to kill and be killed. It’s horrific.”

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If this were not all enough, there are lots of goodies stuffed into the booklet itself. Most notably, in my opinion, is the fold-out at the end–a jaw-dropping 3-4 ft insert that reminds me of a Mayan Codex… a fold-out expanse of war in its various dimensions, from recruitment to death.

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Just a small selection of Darren Cullen’s fold-out in (Don’t) Join the Army.

It need not be said that this kind of work doesn’t speak to everyone. Cullen has weathered quite a bit of difficulty just in finding a printer who would help him publish, due to the content–which I think is saying something in this day and age. But the offence is not so much to the violence, in my opinion. We see depictions of violence and war frequently. But this cuts into the insanity of advertising violence and war being sold to us as something other than what it is, and mocks it ruthlessly for being so blatant a contradiction.  It seems quite natural, in this context, that Cullen would point out, “I think the expectation and the reality [of the military] are so different, it’s a perfect subject for satire.”

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