In 2010, when Maximilian Uriarte created Terminal Lance, the comic strip represented institutional heresy, utterly antithetical to the tailored public image of the Marine Corps. Marines were not portrayed as steely-eyed warriors in pitched firefights, heroically defending the American Way. Instead, Uriarte portrays the unfiltered satirical perspective of the average day enlisted Marine infantryman – equal parts absurd, mundane, and profound.
For those who have served, Terminal Lance Ultimate Omnibus, a compilation of the online comic series, will be a familiar comfort, seeped in their secret language, culture, and struggles, both big and small. As a former Marine myself, I found my own experiences in the Corps reflected within its pages: the monotonous days of deployment (#314 “Rock Tossing”), the ludicrous circus of barracks life (#397 Bricks Life II), the torturous limbo of the armory (#384 “Welcome to the Armory), suffering through the company commander’s daily tardiness (#404 Why He’s Always Late III), and the fumbling transition back to civilian life (“Career Building”).
Thus, unsurprisingly, the book serves as a de-facto personal history of the Post-9/11 generation of Marines. Admittedly, the stories that Uriarte emphasizes on are not destined for Hollywood screens or even wider social acceptance. Instead, with his versatile and unabashed storytelling, Uriarte focuses on stories Marines share with other Marines, drunk on beer and nostalgia. At the same time, he is unafraid to tackle controversial issues such as women in the infantry, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), and the ever divisive discourse of national politics. Admirably, Uriarte pulls no punches, either from himself, the Marine Corps, or society writ large. The reality of military service and the blemishes of everyday Marines are not glossed over, but eagerly embraced.
In this singular yet monumental task, Uriarte achieves what very few artists and writers have done before — portraying the American service member in utmost honesty.
As a society, Americans wrap military service in a mantle of patriotism, self-sacrifice, and reverence – as if the uniform magically endows an individual with superhuman abilities and saint-like character. Consequently, service members are transformed into enigmatic, isolated figures devoid of any semblance of humanity beyond tired cliches.
Fortunately, with Terminal Lance Ultimate Omnibus, Uriarte pulls back the veil, revealing the lovable cast of characters that comprises the Marine Corps: the boot, the skater, the motard, the blue falcon, the old timer, the knife hand wielding Gunny, and the hapless LT.
On second thought, maybe it’s better we keep the myth alive (#147 Keeping the Myth Alive).
Sebastian J. Bae co-holds the Marine Chair on the Long March’s Council of the Former Enlisted. He served six years in the Marine Corps infantry, leaving as a sergeant. He deployed to Iraq in 2009. He currently works as a defense analyst specializing in wargaming, emerging technology, and counterinsurgency. Follow him on Twitter at: @SebastianBae.