"'68: Rule of War #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Mark Kidwell
Illustrated by Jeff Zornow
2014, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on April 2nd, 2014
Is there any depiction of the Vietnam War that presents the conflict in a positive light? I haven't seen any. '68 is certainly not one of them, but this comic adds a new level of terror to the years of hell that these soldiers went through: Zombies. It was already bad enough without the dead walking through the jungles of Vietnam, now it's a struggle to survive on two fronts and you'd better make sure that the enemy is really dead before moving on. The latest mini-series in the ongoing horror / war story is Rule of War, and it promises to show that while the undead are a real danger, human beings are still capable of truly horrible things.
'68: Rule of War is broken up between two main arcs. The middle part of the issue checks in with a group of soldiers that have been the subject of several '68 comics. They're struggling to escape from Saigon as the airport is being overrun by zombies. They hack and slash their way through hordes of the walking dead for a chance at freedom. If they can just get in the air, they'll be safe...right?
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The beginning and end of the issue has CIA Agent Declan Jonas searching for Doctor Than Morneau, a butcher that's been experimenting on soldiers. He's described as a “neurosurgeon, terrorist...monster maker.” We get a glimpse of this man in the opening pages and he's up to some pretty heinous stuff. Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on Dr. Morneau. Jonas is joined by his trusty dog Nero as he hunts for the doctor to avenge his son's death. In case you didn't figure it out yet, Morneau is the dark human element in '68: Rule of War. He branches out from strapping bombs to soldiers to turning zombies into death machines.
Jeff Zornow returns to handle the artwork on Rule of War, previously working with writer Mark Kidwell on '68: Jungle Jim. He draws some incredible gore. From Nero viciously biting into the neck of a Vietcong to a zombie getting his head chopped off with an ax, this comic is filled with blood splatter. It's often tough to scare a reader in comics because you don't have the same tactics available in film or television. Zornow keeps things frightening with some great reveal pages that show some incredible monstrosities. The first of these is very early on when you get a quick look as to what Dr. Morneau has been up to recently. It's a full-page spread of an unfortunate soldier held together with staples and wires. It's pretty gruesome and helps set the tone for the book.
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Regular series artist Nat Jones provided a kick ass cover for '68: Rule of War. Zombies can be scary as is, but to really seal the deal you need a group of them to really terrify you. Jones manages to do that with a lone walker on the cover. It's an example of Dr. Morneau's work and it gives you an idea of what he's been up to lately. It puts a whole new meaning to the term “suicide bomber.”
'68: Rule of War provides a continued look at the alternate history of the Vietnam War filled with zombies. As with previous volumes, the creators include some facts about the elements they pulled into the story, so you get the historical significance to the plot. It's not like they just made this all up. Now what do we have to do to get this taught in schools? It would probably help kids pay a bit more attention to this event in class, no?