Saturday, July 27, 2013

The 'Nam Vol. 2

Written by Doug Murray
Art by Wayne Vansant, Michael Golden, John Severin, Geoff Isherwood, John Beatty, and Bob Camp

It's worth wondering how my reading and educational history might have changed had my twelve and thirteen year old self been wise enough to realize what a cool and special series Marvel's The 'Nam was when it was first being published.  Were a series like this being launched today, I would support it whole-heartedly and with great enthusiasm.

Still, kids are dumb, especially given that some of these comics were drawn by Michael Golden, whose Micronauts issues were among the ones I treasured the most.

Anyway, The 'Nam was structured to try to show how the Vietnam War worked in real time.  A month of history passed between each monthly issue, and efforts were made to align the events that the soldiers of the 23rd Infantry Division experienced in the comic with what happened in the actual war.  It's an interesting structure, causing characters to move in and out of the book as they are injured or they become 'short'.  At times it doesn't work - when an unpopular and possibly psychotic lieutenant meets an unexpected fate on the base, it's two months before that event is dealt with by the brass.  One would assume the reaction would have happened quicker.

This comic is not blind in its portrayal of the more questionable aspects of the war.  When our point of view character gets back home, he is surprised to see how the war is being portrayed and understood in the media and even by his own parents.  There's not a lot of time for politics however, as Murray prefers to focus on the tight relationships formed among the men.  Many issues lack strong narrative structure on their own, and instead work as vignettes in a war that lasted a long time.

The art in this book, which collects ten issues of the series, is superb.  Golden drew this with a much looser style than he was known for at the time, and Wayne Vansant, who drew the lion's share of issues, echoed his style quite well while maintaining his own approach.  John Severin drew an issue, which is alone enough of a reason to buy this book.

Reading this, I'm kind of surprised that we haven't seen a more modern attempt to do this same sort of comic, but set in Afghanistan or Iraq.  Enough time has passed that these stories are becoming more common on television and in movies, but with the exception of DC's short lived war comic corner of the New 52, we aren't seeing enough exploration of these conflicts...

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