'68 is sick and twisted. Zombie fans dig into the fresh flesh of this mag, you won't be disappointed.
Credits & Solicit Info:
'68 #1 (of 4)
story MARK KIDWELL
art NAT JONES, TIM VIGIL & JAY FOTOS
cover A: NAT JONES
cover B: NAT JONES & JAY FOTOS
1/10 incentive cover C: NAT JONES
32 PAGES / FC
On February 13, 1968, during the darkest days of the Vietnam conflict, the gates of hell opened wide, unleashing new and hungry life into the countless war-torn dead. The horrors of war take a back seat as an American tunnel rat crawls into a Viet Cong warren turned undead slaughterhouse, rotting snipers fire their final bullets from treetop perches, and freshly filled body bags twitch and rise from the slab. There are zombies in the razor wire...
Horror comics creators NAT JONES, MARK KIDWELL and JAY FOTOS return to the jungles of Vietnam, expanding the zombie epic started in the original one-shot '68 with this four-issue mini-series of undead military horror. Each issue features multiple covers by Jones and Fotos, full 22-page stories in series continuity and a bonus 4-page short that expands on the zombie-infected world of 1968 by horror titan Tim Vigil.
Welcome to 1968... and the end of the world.
68 is a hell of a concept. Take the shit-show known as the Vietnam War, mix in some zombies, shake, and you can imagine what comes out. There are two stories in this book, both written by Mark Kidwell: the first is illustrated by Nat Jones, the short in the back by Tim Vigil, and the entire issue was colored by Jay Fotos.
I know nothing about the Vietnam War, save for Apocalypse Now and some random war comics, so I am not going to talk about the historic content of this comic. I will base this critique solely on the story, characterization and artwork. For a first issue Kidwell does not waste time: you are in Vietnam and there are zombies, in trees, sniping people. What? 68 runs fast and loose with the rules of zombie fiction, and I think that is one the the key reasons why I like it so much; there are Viet Cong tunnels filled with zombie hands, and some other little twists involving zombies that I won't ruin for you here, but that twisted little bastard inside of you will smile when you see them. Kidwell does a good job of introducing the characters: you have the Doc, Sarg, sniper-guy, and the picked-on Asian-American soldier that likes to journal. We're not breaking any new ground with characters in 68, but with a cast as large as this it helps to have some characters that are easily identifiable. There are some cracks in Kidwell's writing, however; one scene in particular, where Yam (the Asian-American) surfaces into a larger cavern full of zombies screaming about the dead. The scene's dialogue and setting are slightly confusing at the outset, but after you spend some time with the issue everything clicks together a little better. The backup story takes you out of the jungle and into the city, which is another way to introduce Vietnam War/zombie craziness into the mix and expand quickly on the mythos of the book. I'm left wondering whether or not the zombies are a tactic of the Viet Cong? It will be interesting to find out.
Nat Jones reminds me of Tony Moore (Venom), and the reviewers will have a field day comparing this to the initial run of The Walking Dead. He does a great job differentiating the large cast of characters. One of the problems a lot of comics run into with multiple characters is confusing one person for another, but that never happens here, Jones gives everyone a distinct look. His storytelling skills are solid, the emotional expression on faces is clear, and the zombies are terrifying. If you've seen Jones's take on Eddie Adam's famous photo for the cover of 68 you'll know what I mean when I say terrifying. The cover tells you everything you need to know about the series and is disturbing because of the power of Adam's image has lasted generations.
Kidwell's backup art is a mix of Barry Kitson (Amazing Spider-Man) and Eric Powell (Goon), and does not pull any punches. This short is basic, filled with gore and blood, but Kidwell equals Jones's art on the feature, telling the gore-filled story with panache.
Jay Fotos' color work here is crisp and clear, filled with red ink and a horrific grey/blue for the rotting bodies. No complaints in this department, Fotos does nothing but make his artists look even better.
Overall I have to say I'm surprised by the quality of this book. I had no pre-conceived notions about it, but the zombie craze has kind of played itself out a little. 68 doesn't just pad another zombie story on top of a million other zombie stories, but adds something slightly different into the mix. Historic zombie stories have been done, but the era of Vietnam and zombies are both horrifying in their own way, making this book a great little horror number itself.
Review by: Martin John