Review - '68: Jungle Jim #1

Vietnam is a rather dark place in American history. It was a war nobody wanted and generated atrocities that still haunt us to this day. One thing created in the chaos of the fighting that probably goes a little unnoticed though was zombies. The shambling soldiers get full attention in '68: Jungle Jim #1 from Image Comics.

The issue is written by Mark Kidwell, with illustrations by Jeff Zornow, colors by Jay Fotos and letters by Jason Arthur.

Vietnam, 1968: Behind enemy lines, Private Brian Curliss is alone. The enemy caged him, the dead want to devour him and the voices in his head are driving him to madness. A madness that emerges in the form of an unstoppable killing machine wrapped in burlap and bamboo. Curliss is a one-man-army, sworn to wade through a wet red jungle gone straight to hell in search of a ghost named Jungle Jim. To the Viet Cong, he's a nightmare. To POWs trapped in enemy hands, he's salvation. To the legions of shambling, hungry dead; he's the Grim Reaper in a gas mask.

Zombies are being ret-conned into more and more historical events, so why should the Vietnam War be any exception? Kidwell's hero is extremely skilled at combat, with a penchant for self-reflection and narration. As a character, he's got all the chops needed to be a soldier. Unfortunately, he's a little formulaic when it comes to everything else, spouting off clever one-liners as he dispatches the undead. The story itself doesn't really explain why the zombies are roaming the Vietnam countryside and a small village looks to be the setting for something bigger.

Zornow's art is violent and gory; exactly what you'd want/expect from a book focused on zombies. There's a variety of gore in here as well, with Curliss making sure to dispatch of his enemies with variety and a flair for the intense. The panels have an old-school feel to them as well, helping to set the reader in the world of the Vietnam War. If you can get around the excess of blood, the book is actually illustrated quite well.

The first of a four-issue miniseries doesn't really tread new ground when it comes to war or zombies. It does present a hero who's likable enough despite his stereotypical failings in a world that doesn't really want to like him. Whether the zombie threat is sussed out or just maintains a presence as a backdrop for the story remains to be seen, but at least you know you'll be getting lots of them as cannon fodder.

'68: Jungle Jim #1 is in stores now.