The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 7 | “The ‘Nam,” Vol.1 TPB review

Leaving Proof 7 | “The ‘Nam,” Vol.1 TPB review
Published on Thursday, October 21, 2010 by

[Author’s note: The text in this article originally appeared on http://kittyspryde.forumotion.com on 11 August 2010 and may have had its content changed or edited since its initial online publication]

The ‘Nam Vol.1
  • Nam v1 cover(Marvel Comics, 2009; 248 pages; reprints The ‘Nam #1-10, originally published in 1986 through 1987)
  • Writer: Doug Murray
  • Pencilers: Michael Golden and Wayne Vansant
  • Inkers: Armando Gil, Pepe Moreno, John Beatty, and Bob McLeod
  • Colourists: Michael Golden and Phil Felix
  • Letterers: Phil Felix and Kurt Hathaway
  • Cover Price: $29.99 US
———————-

Nam 2The ‘Nam Vol.1 collects the first 10 issues of the critically acclaimed mid-1980s comic book series about the Vietnam War. The book’s writer was Vietnam War veteran Doug Murray and the editor was fellow veteran (and legendary GI Joe scribe) Larry Hama. To say that these gentlemen had a personal stake in the comic book would be something of an understatement. Both men campaigned to keep the book within the Comics Code Authority guidelines, because they wanted children and teens to see the Vietnam War as they saw it, and not through the filters of film and TV or the sanitized perspectives of history books. Although working within the code meant that Murray had to clean up the language and he couldn’t explicitly portray certain everyday facets of the GI’s reality, like widespread drug use, it was a compromise he welcomed if it meant that he could reach a much wider and younger readership.

Nam 3These are basically fictionalized depictions of veterans’ personal recollections of the conflict in Southeast Asia presented in real-time (one month in “comics time” equates to a month in real world time, as opposed to the arbitrary passage of time in most modern comics). It’s somewhat difficult to critique The ‘Nam Vol.1 outside of the narrative’s technical merits. You either like this kind of thing or you don’t. Fortunately, I happen to fall into the “like” camp. Despite the restrictions of the Comics Code and Murray and Hama’s intent to make the comic book accessible to readers born after the war, it doesn’t feel at all like a bowdlerized product. It’s appropriately simple without being simplistic. Murray also avoids the trap of introducing too much politics into the title. He wanted to depict the conflict from the grunt’s point of view, and by his and Hama’s admission, most of them on the ground at the time weren’t really up on the ideologies, politics, and agendas behind the war, although it doesn’t mean that they skirted around controversy. One of the early issues actually shows a “fragging” (an assassination attempt on a higher ranking soldier by disgruntled subordinates) and a running subplot revolves around institutionalized graft and corruption perpetrated by some members of the American military. Nam 4As far as the narrative’s genuineness goes, I guess an endorsement of the comic book by BRAVO (Brotherhood Rally of All Veterans Organizations, a national non-profit composed of Vietnam veterans) in the form of the “Best Media Portrayal of the Vietnam War” award for 1987 (the comic book beat out much higher-profile projects like the Oscar-winning film Platoon) is more convincing than anything I could write.

Golden’s art on the title is, in my mind, some of the best comics work he has produced in a career spanning over three decades. He infuses his figures with a certain level of cartoonishness and levity, but it all seems appropriate despite the subject matter.

Very highly recommended. Definitely one of my favourite TPBs of the past couple of years.

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