"'68: Volume 1 - Better Run Through the Jungle" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as '68 #1-4 and '68 Encore Edition
Written by Mark Kidwell
Illustrated by Nat Jones and Tim Vigil
$19.99, 176 Pages
Trade Paperback released on March 7th, 2012
Historical fiction is all the rage these days. Everyone is going back in time and throwing in aliens, murderers, and zombies to the seedy underbelly of history. Mark Kidwell and Nat Jones have tossed out their own take on the Vietnam War with '68, a tale where the dead have risen, making Charlie the second most dangerous thing lurking in the jungles...and at home.
'68 starts out with a pretty straight forward concept. What would happen if zombies popped up during the Vietnam War? How would the US troops react? What would the government do? Would the war end as both sides recognize a new threat that puts them both in danger? It quickly reveals that it's much more than that. Each of the four issues of the main mini-series focuses on a different set of characters, but they flow together seamlessly. I never felt disappointed that a character I had grown attached to didn't show up in the next chapter.
My favorite part of '68 is when Kidwell took a break from the war to bring the story back home to the States. We're all familiar with the hippies and the anti-war movement that was going on during the Vietnam War, but what if those peaceful protests were broken up by a horde of zombies? That's right! No one is safe! There is something so pleasing about seeing a flower child getting his guts ripped out by a bunch of hungry zombies.
As with most stories of the undead, no reason is given for the appearance of the zombies. They're just suddenly there and now the world has to deal with it. I both like and hate this idea because part of me is always going to want to know why this happened.
While Mark Kidwell provided the script for '68, Nat Jones delivered on the artwork. Jones has a unique style that at times can make his characters look a little cartoonish, but manage to never lose the serious tone of the story, whether it's the freckle-faced young medic Kirk in the first issue or the Asian Rambo, Kuen Yin, in the second chapter, the characters are all unique. Where Jones really excels though is with the zombies. Holy crap, are there a lot of walkers in this book. They're in the trees. They're in the ground. They're everywhere and they're all different. Some are missing limbs or just plain falling apart, but there is an impressive amount of variety here and they're all very gruesome.
'68 is like an epic war movie on par with Platoon (which is actually homaged in one scene) but filled with zombies. It takes a hard look at the lives of the soldiers and their loved ones back home and how the war has affected them both physically and emotionally. The comic tackles real issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The creators also clearly did their research when it came to the actual events. They actually provide a handy fact sheet at the end of the book, explaining what was part of the real history of the war and what was added in for the story. The beauty of '68 is that it's a book that can really keep going on forever, with new pieces added in from a different set of characters anywhere in the world. Since the initial series was published, two more one shots have been released that are certainly worth checking out as well.