Apr 28, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 429: The 'Nam #1, December 1986 (War Week, Day 2)

http://www.comics.org/issue/42183/

As someone who isn't American, I have a hard time figuring out why the war in Vietnam (sorry, "police action") exerted so much influence on the nation's imagination. Likely it's because it was one of the first wars in the US's history that was actually seen by the citizens of the nation, spurring vast protests but also placing into the cultural consciousness clear pictures of what war looks like. Add this to the fact that the US "lost" the war (I know, I know, an arguable point depending on your beliefs), and it's really no wonder this particular conflict becomes so important in the cultural imaginary.

Private Ed Marks' first day in the 'Nam. The text piece in the back of the comic claims that it will be presenting these stories, based on actual events, in a manner as close as possible to the way things were, given the Comics Code restrictions. I can't speak to the accuracy of the actual events, but the way the narrative unfolds is probably pretty indicative. Events flash by, a confusing array of barked orders, sly smiles, misunderstood, or uncomprehended, language and terms, punctuated by moments that really are the sort that would stick out amidst the chaos of the first day. The first fire fight. The first dead enemy soldiers. The realization that one is in a completely different place. Not the World, but the 'Nam.

The 'Nam is written and edited by two Vietnam veterans, so it's verisimilitude factor is going to be high, even with Michael Golden's stylized, though still highly effective, art style. It does what it sets out to do, and that is to communicate the alienness of war to a reading public. The series lasted 84 issues, and one hopes it didn't end up getting too glorified. The balance in the first issue is a nice one, and it's a testament to the experiences of the creators that this is a comic that seems to have been premiered with the voice it usually takes a series a year or two to find already intact.

Onward!

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