The creative team of Matt Kindt, Tyler Jenkins, and Hilary Jenkins stands among the best working in the industry today. From Grass Kings to the most recent Fear Case, the comics craft on display points to nuanced stories that find a home in the space between empathy and darkness, be it through the idea of violence at a community level or violence to a more intimate degree.
The team’s new series, Apache Delivery Service, seems to be aiming at exploring the grey area that’s wedged between the two kinds of violence I just mentioned. Horror, war, and First Nations characters are brought along for a ride in what will definitely be one of the most unique stories on the stands upon release in January of next year.
Apache Delivery Service follows two men, one of them a First Nations soldier, searching for Nazi gold in the middle of the Vietnam War. Rumors of a serial killer swirl around those in the know and witches seem to be a problem that complicates the treasure hunt.
Reading the first issue, I was reminded a bit of a 1962 movie called War Hunt, in which an American soldier turned serial killer stalks enemy combatants during the Korean War. The movie starred Robert Redford and John Saxon and it was a careful study of the line that separates soldiers from stone cold killers, or men doing a job from men committing murder.
There’s a bit of that type of questioning in the first issue of Apache Delivery Service, which sets out to hook readers in on the basis of character development first. The horror aspects of the story aren’t even that pronounced in the first entry, but they are set up. While comparison to Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now (1979) are easy to make here, I felt the comic takes more from the Joseph Conrad novel the movie’s based on, Heart of Darkness (1899), which leans more heavily on what can now be considered horror imagery.
The Beat corresponded with series author Matt Kindt to talk what went into the decision to make so many horror elements come together for a fiercely supernatural treasure hunt set to the backdrop of one of America’s most unsettling military conflicts: The Vietnam War.
RICARDO SERRANO: You’re no stranger to violent stories that resort to bloodshed to say something interesting about people and their ways. Apache Delivery Service seems to be heading in that same direction. What are you hoping to explore with your new series?
MATT KINDT: This story really started with a conversation I was having with Tyler. We were just talking about the kind of story we wanted to do next. I’m an artist, and you can ask pretty much any artist I’ve collaborated with – the conversation usually starts with “what do you want to draw.” It’s what has always driven my stories and I just think if you’re excited to draw something – there’s a reason why – and if you’re excited it’s going to turn out better. It’s a collaboration, so I want Tyler (and any collaborator) to be excited – because that ends up being contagious, you know? So Tyler was in the mood to draw jungles and Huey helicopters and gear from the 60s/70s. Using that as a jumping off point – we cooked up a kind of war story that combines serial killers, witches, and lost Nazi gold. Super easy. Hardly any inconvenience (laughs).
SERRANO: You’ve reunited with Tyler Jenkins and Hilary Jenkins once more to tell this rough and gritty story, having just recently worked with them on Fear Case (and previously with Tyler on Grass Kings). What draws you to their storytelling styles for these types of darkly human narratives?
KINDT: I think first off – they are artists with a capital A. They both tackle every project as its own thing. We never approach it with the idea that we’ll do this book just like the last one. They respond to the story and adjust and experiment with their art accordingly. Grass Kings was our first book together and Hilary took over painting part way through. She matched Tyler’s style on that – but with Black Badge they wanted to try something new – brighter colors – different paint and style – to fit the narrative – so it has a completely different look. And they did it again on Fear Case – Tyler working with charcoal and Hilary painting over it – I love it – they are giving each book and each story its own unique flavor and there just aren’t a lot of artists out there that are capable of turning in something new again and again like that. It’s been amazing to be a part of that process.
SERRANO: There tends to be a very strange element to your work when it comes to building up mystery and horror around your characters. Nothing’s ever a simple creature story or basic murder mystery. There’s always something lurking underneath. What is it that attracts you to the strange and the bizarre in your work?
KINDT: I think human beings are quirky creatures. And the way the human brain works is both terrifying and amazing. So maybe I’m just trying to tap into that and sort of show it in all its glory and horror. Everything I write is character driven. The genre and the “pitch” are really just the excuse to dig in and explore characters and ideas and moral dilemmas – the kinds of things I think about all day every day. I don’t do therapy – but I think writing and comics is that for me. A way of asking questions and then having characters answer them – and then me watching what happens – trying to learn.
SERRANO: Apache Delivery Service‘s main character is a First Nations soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. Upon reading the first issue, it’s obvious you’re looking to strike down stereotypes and misconceptions about these kinds of characters. What are you hoping to add to the conversation with your character?
KINDT: I don’t know what I can add – other than just start a conversation. I’m here on this planet to learn. If I had the answers – I’d let you know. But I’m curious. Curious about everything. The planet, other cultures, other individual experiences. I’m stuck in this body and this mind – but I want to learn and hear and see what the world is like from every direction. Every story I’ve ever written (after Pistolwhip) has been an effort for me to choose characters to write that are as different from me as possible – as a way to help me learn and grow and be empathetic to a POV that isn’t mine – to get me out of my comfort zone and try to look at things from a different angle. That has always been a conscious choice – to keep me interested. If I was writing characters that were just avatars for myself? I can’t think of anything more boring to write. I was so lucky to be introduced to Michael Sheyahshe who was so generous with his First Nations knowledge. There are a lot of nuances in this book – just with our main character, Ernie, that I really owe Michael for helping me flesh out and make real.
SERRANO: What can we expect from your new series moving forward? Can you give us an idea of what’s to come after this first and utterly compelling first issue?
KINDT: It’s gets crazy. It might look like a war comic – and it starts that way but it unravels pretty fast into a potential serial-killer/stalker butting heads with what may or may not be witches…and gold – that may or may not exist. It gets really crazy really fast.
Apache Delivery Service is a four-issue mini-series from Dark Horse Comics. The first issue is slated for release on January 5, 2022.