In war, truth is the first casualty


 
So I have started to read the series called "the 'Nam" (I am actually kind of addicted to it) which details the life of ordinary soldiers in the Vietnam War.  For the first few issues at least this is shown through the eyes of Ed Marks, an enlisted soldier.   The series is not meant as a glorification of war rather as a stark look at the experiences there.  The life shown there is almost sometimes shown in minute detail, focusing on such things as the quality of boots or a few days of leave, while also dealing with the things that would scar a person for life - napalm strikes on villages, or locals sympathetic to the Americans being left to die on stakes as an example of whose side to be on.  As I mentioned previously, these realistic and gritty looks at war are the greatest form of an anti-war message.  In this case it helps that the writer is himself a Vietnam War veteran and one that can convey his message.  Previously I have discussed whether there is an ultimate media form for specific genres of fiction, and it is possible that comics are indeed the best form in the modern day for the anti-war narrative in the spirit of Remarque.  Whereas Remarque's work existed in a time largely before movies, the message had to be conveyed by words.  When it comes to war though, I do not think that words can always convey the bigger picture.  This might make movies or television an ideal form, but in these cases studios are supposed to be wed to the bottom dollar, that being a marketable product that people will watch.  Thus even with otherwise realistic movies or shows such as Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, there are still moments where the characters get into a big climactic battle.  For anyone who has never read All Quiet on the Western Front or watched the movie, there never is a big climactic battle, the real battle is whether the soldiers can escape the war with their bodies and souls intact.  The is also where the gravitas of the 'Nam rests, in that war doesn't have some apex moment for the soldiers other than getting on the plane home.    
 
The pacing of the series and the manner in which it drives home its message is one in which the images only aid to convey this message and despite the ability to display the "cooler" aspects of war, they do not revert to that, as this is a face war that does not really exist.  In my mind that I have not come across any form of media that can surpass this depiction of war in the past 40 years (and really have to go back to Remarque for the same quality) it makes me think the best format for the anti-war message might be in comics, albeit ones where the writer knows the experience firsthand.    
8 Comments
8 Comments
Posted by jloneblackheart

I think this is one of your best blogs to date (I often read your blogs, yet never comment, so I apologize for that).

I think it's always great to find a non-superhero comic to read that just refreshes your love for comics. I've never read The 'Nam (always wanted to) so I'm glad to have some insight to what it's about. It sounds much better than just a US wins the battle everyone is a hero story I thought it might be.

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Posted by pikahyper

Great blog, I've always had a soft spot for war comics and movies and The 'Nam has always been one of the best I've read, if you want some other good war time reads it is worth checking out Semper Fi and all of the War Stories one shots from Vertigo. All of Joe Kuberts war comics work at DC is also excellent; Out Army at War, Sgt. Rock, G.I. Combat, Unknown Soldier, Out Fighting Forces, etc. 
 
Have you seen the Band of Brothers follow up The Pacific? fantastic mini.

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Posted by RazzaTazz
@jloneblackheart
No worries, I know I have some secret fans on here, I just didn't know any of them were mods.  I am sure the series will desend into some more action based pro-USA themes, but at the moment it is excellent.    
 
@pikahyper: 
I am a Wonder Woman loving fangirl so this entry into war comics is kind of strange for me.  I am going to read through this and then check those out though.  I only saw Band of Brothers and didn't bother with the Pacific because I figured it would seem pale in comparison.  Does it compare with BoB?
 
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Posted by TheSheepHerder
@RazzaTazz said:
I only saw Band of Brothers and didn't bother with the Pacific because I figured it would seem pale in comparison.  Does it compare with BoB? 
The Pacific was good, but nowhere near as great as BoB. The biggest problem I found with it was how they keep jumping to different characters in each episode, and it made the entire story confusing.  
 
The 'Nam sounds very interesting. I've always wondered if there are comics with gritty war stories so thanks for sharing this. :D
Posted by pikahyper

Ya like TheSheepHerder said it isn't as great but it does look at it from a different angle (at times) so it makes a good companion series and it had some great acting in it.

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Posted by Donovan Montgomery

The 'Nam was a great series, unfortunately I was only able to pick up the first 30 or so issues so I haven't read the whole series yet (sad face).  I am hoping to pick the rest up soon.  I enjoyed your write up and agree this is one of the best representations of the war (as I know it not having been in it).  I like how it's basically "real time", one year in the comic = one year our time (there a bouts)

Posted by dondasch

Quote:
 
"For anyone who has never read All Quiet on the Western Front or watched the movie, there never is a big climactic battle, the real battle is whether the soldiers can escape the war with their bodies and souls intact. "
 
For me, here is by far a bigger victim than truth in war.  That victim's name is innocence.  I am not so sure that truth can have any relevance in war until after the war has ended, and then the analysis can begin.  Once a soldier, any soldier, is taken from their local area, away from their family, friends, loved ones, ideologies, habits, it becomes clear that their innocence prior to setting foot in country X for mission Y is irrevocably lost, scarred, and driven away.  The men and women who return from war are never the same.  That is a singular truth.

Posted by Omega Ray Jay

Never heard of this comic before, it sounds very commendable for it's take on the subject. It's easy to get lost in the glorification and forget the true horrors of what goes on in war when it comes to media interpretation.