The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 83 | “’68, Vol. 1: Better Run Through The Jungle” reviewed

Leaving Proof 83 | “’68, Vol. 1: Better Run Through The Jungle” reviewed
Published on Friday, March 9, 2012 by
From the Image Comics website product copy

There are zombies in the razorwire. Welcome to 1968… and the end of the world. From the steaming jungles of Viet Nam to the brightly lit campus of demonstration-torn Berkeley, California, ravenous hordes of unstoppable ghouls are changing the face of the Age of Aquarius.

Collected for the first time, this 178-page trade paperback re-presents the first four-issue story arc from the ’68 ongoing series, along with the re-colored and re-lettered original one-shot from 2006! Plus, creators MARK KIDWELL, NAT JONES and JAY FOTOS have included tons of behind-the-scenes extras to make this a must-have for zombie and horror fans everywhere!

Publisher, Creative Team, Format, and Pricing Details

  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Year Published: 2012
  • Story by: Mark Kidwell
  • Pen and Inks by: Nat Jones (’68 one-shot and ’68 #1–4), Tim Vigil (Mouth of Babes and Sissy bonus material)
  • Colours by: Jay Fotos
  • Lettering by: Jason Hanley and Jason Arthur
  • Format: 178 page full-colour trade paperback (collects the ’68 one-shot and ’68 #1–4, originally published in single magazine form)
  • List Price: US $19.99 (digital review copy provided free of charge by the publisher)
What I Liked

Mixing genres is a tricky thing, whether it is attempted in film, music, or comics. A horror-war hybrid comic like ’68, for instance, might be essentially satisfying as a zombie comic but fail to effectively integrate its military fiction elements. Alternatively, the supernatural horror dimension might blunt what is an otherwise engrossing and affecting war story. Writer Mark Kidwell sidesteps these concerns by primarily focusing on the narrative’s zombie horror aspect, and the book is all the better for it: At its most frantic best, ’68 recreates the slow-building claustrophobic terror of the Dan O’Bannon-penned B-17 short in 1981’s Heavy Metal animated film, one of the most successful pairings of the zombie and historical military motifs in comics or animation.

Artist Nat Jones’ storytelling is clear and straightforward and the faces he draws are distinct for the most part, which is always a good thing, particularly in comics with a relatively large and diverse cast.

The volume comes with a wealth of bonus material: sketch galleries, full-page reproductions of the various individual issue covers (including variant covers), historical notes, sample script pages, and two back-up stories illustrated by Tim Vigil. The bonus four-pagers are my favourite parts of the book, full of the dark and cruelly ironic humour that characterized classic EC Comics horror strips.

What I Didn’t Like

It’s apparent Kidwell did his research for the book, although a minor issue got my inner pedant stirring: the script erroneously refers to the commanding officer of the firebase (an Army captain) by the informal nickname of “Top” (in the US Army, “top” is used exclusively to refer to company-level senior sergeants in lead administrative positions). There are also a number of egregious spelling errors, which are especially disappointing to see in a trade paperback featuring what is supposed to be re-mastered material. It isn’t so much that the inappropriate use of “top” and the actual misspellings are all that bothersome so much as they represent what can be construed as a lack of editorial attention to detail in the re-mastering process.

The in medias res opening utilized for the volume might not have been the best approach. There are enough indicators in the script to keep outright confusion from being a problem except for the most easily-addled reader, but the contrivance adds a wholly unnecessary layer of potential obfuscation.

The Verdict

The current glut of zombie-themed media in the entertainment market stands as its own recursive commentary on the indiscriminate and uncritical regurgitation of George Romero’s lampooning of mindless consumption. It would be foolish to dismiss ’68, Vol. 1: Better Run Through The Jungle out of hand for this reason, though. For all its minor issues, this horror title does a lot of things right and the creative team’s passion for the material shines through in the final product.

“’68, Vol. 1: Better Run Through The Jungle” is on sale now

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7 Responses
    • One of my biggest issues/problems with Image is the lack of an editor.  It’s a creator-owned publisher and the creators choose if they have an editor on their book or not. Most don’t.  Alot should.  Even if it’s just a copy editor, someone that reads the material for spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes or references that are wrong (like the “Top” thing).

      • I try not to let errors or discrepancies in the formatting (including spelling and prescriptive grammar), style, or accuracy of the text get in the way of my enjoyment of a book as much as possible, but they do speak to a certain lack of care in execution when seen in a re-mastered volume: You’d think these types of errors would have been caught the second time around.

        Having these misgivings is not about pedantry. It’s about having reasonable expectations for a baseline level of polish and technical competency in the craft behind a book. Just as I think it’s fair to expect professional comics artists—even ones who employ highly stylized mannerisms—to have a rudimentary and consistent grasp of anatomy, drapery, lighting, and perspective, it is not out of line for a reader to want formatting and accuracy errors in the script kept to a minimum.

        • I agree on both counts.  If something gets by in a creator-owned book the first time, I can let it go.  For the most part.  Sometimes the errors are so glaring that they distract from the work. But in a trade?  All those mistakes should be fixed.

          At Marvel or DC, where there are Assistant Editors, Associate Editors and Editors (sometimes all 3 on the same book), there’s no excuse for misspellings to make it to print.

          Grammar is a bit trickier as some of it can be considered the way the character is speaking.

          • To me, the significance of “nit-picky” issues like the accuracy and formatting in a comic book’s text or panel-to-panel continuity in the sequential art is that they serve as ballpark indicators of the overall level of craft and workmanship on the book. 

            If I see that the editor has taken the time and effort to do the little things like run a spellcheck (and really, how much time or effort does that take?), confirm the proper in-context use of jargon and colloquialisms, and ensure that the art in one panel doesn’t contradict the text or the art in a previous panel, then I’d feel more confident that the book doesn’t suffer from bigger and more distracting creative issues. Think of it as the Broken Windows Theory as applied to comics.

            It’s just common sense: if a cook messes up scrambling an egg, I’m not going to have a lot of faith in his ability to make a soufflé, if a guitarist has difficulty tuning his instrument, I wouldn’t bet on his ability to wow me with a solo

    • The problems in editing are important, but overall, this is a great story. ’68 is a great genre mix.  Even as I burn out on zombie-everything this stands as an interesting variation.

    • […] Movement era. In more recent years, prose works like Max Brooks’ World War Z, comics like Mark Kidwell and Nat Jones ’68, and video games like The Last of Us have used the metaphor of zombies to address more directly […]

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