Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The 'Nam Vol. 3

Written by Doug Murray
Art by Wayne Vansant, Sam Glanzman, Michael Golden, Geoff Isherwood, and Frank Springer

Two weeks ago, I read GB Tran's brilliant family memoir Vietnamerica, and I couldn't think of a better follow up than the third trade of Marvel's mid-80s series The 'Nam, which set out to tell the story of the Vietnam War, from an American perspective, in real time.

This trade encompasses the Tet Offensive, and many of the major events, such as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, that gripped Americans in 1968.  As always, this series explores the war through a very narrow lens, focussing on one infantry brigade, and the people who interact with them.

There is not much effort to understand the war from the Vietnamese perspective; the locals are portrayed as either the enemy or as interchangeable assistants, but that's not the goal of this series.  Instead, it is to give the reader a more or less realistic understanding of what the American soldiers had to go through.  We see them piling in and out of helicopters, taking fire from unseen positions, and having to deal with the absurdity of rules of engagement that allowed the Viet Cong to disappear into Cambodia with impunity.

Writer Doug Murray does a great job of building characters slowly and episodically, as new soldiers join the 23rd Brigade frequently.  He's helped a great deal by Wayne Vansant, who is the most consistent artist on this book, and who excels at balancing a loose cartoonish style with the difficulty of the setting and situations he has to draw.  Michael Golden provides two black-and-white stories at the end of the book that are gorgeous.

It seems that Marvel has stopped collecting this series in trade, and that means I need to start tracking down the individual issues, as I really want to see where this series ends up.  

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