The Other Side

This week’s comics includes a great collected trade from Vertigo you should check out: The Other Side, written by Jason Aaron with art by Cameron Stewart. While I’ve always had a soft spot for comics like The Nam or Vietnam War Journal, the latter of those was probably my favorite for its more unflinching depiction of war and the characters’ knee-deep-in-it placement.  While I’ll always applaud Marvel for even putting out The Nam, I always felt like too many issues left the devastation in the background, in the form of explosions on the horizon with characters reflecting back on it from their safe distance.  That and the Punisher cameo.  When I found Apple’s Vietnam War Journal, it seemed a much more intense and authentic experience – it wasn’t a Marvel comic, so you knew someone was going to die and stay dead; hell, it was in black-and-white – anything goes.  Anyway, let me get to the point before I further digress into my criticisms and verbose rants (insert trademark symbol).  It’s been many years since either of those books have seen print, and – as far as my memory serves – the comic shelves haven’t seen a war comic in quite some time, aside from a handful of Ennis titles.  So it was a pleasant surprise to see Vertigo putting out this mini-series last year; even more so that it was good, damn good.

Jason Aaron is related to the late author Gus Hasford (The Short Timers, among others, which became Full Metal Jacket), and it was nice to see that unforgettably great phrases like “get ready to run like a bald-headed chicken fucker” run in the family.   In fact, one of the great things about this title is the superb balance of good dialogue and resonating imagery.  Whether it be talking rats taking dibs on a young private’s eyes when he dies, ghastly uniformed skeletons in the chopper waiting to land with everyone else on board, or heaps of bodies unceremoniously populating the setting, the line between the “real” and the “unreal” becomes moot in war, and they are both just as haunting.  Cameron Stewart is a good asset to Aaron’s script as well, and his art delivers the same “damn-creepy” factor which I liked in some of his past work, like Seaguy.

If you missed the mini-series, pick up this newly released trade; it is not your typical Vietnam War story, and while that is one of its greatest strengths, it is such an engaging read that even the most rigid advocates of formulaic plot will have trouble not enjoying it.  Yes, even you die-hard Marvel people (sorry, I couldn’t resist).  While you’re at the comic shop, look for Aaron’s newest from Vertigo, Scalped.  It is just as good, and I’ll have a post for it later.  Trust me, Captain America will come back, Superman will still fly, and The Crisis of 52 Infinite Civil Wars will come and go and come back again and again, and you won’t be missing too much by passing on those and instead trying out something new.  Who knows, when it’s done this well, you may never go back to tights and capes again.  Besides, Steve Rogers never had dialogue as good as “I’m ready for death … and yonder the fucker comes.”

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