Graphic Novel Review 274/365: The Other Side

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I’m starting to transition out of the amazing weekend that was C2E2 and into a run of more serious graphic novels that I’ve had around, dying to be reviewed.  Today’s book is about war; one of the most devastating, arguably pointless wars America has ever entered: Vietnam.

Title: The Other Side 

Author(s): Jason Aaron, Cameron Stewart, and Dave McCaig

Publisher: Image Comics (2017)

Age Rating: 17+

When my students ask me for more war graphic novels, they are not speaking about books like The Other Side.  They want tales of courage.  Tales of victory.  Tales of American might and power.  Unfortunately, for the most part, war is not that.  War is scared kids.  Missing limbs.  The development of mental issues.  Families forced to live without loved ones…on both sides.

We like to glorify war.  We erect statues.  We make films.  We sell toys.

War is nothing to be glorified.  Is it, at times, mandatory?  I would say “yes,” but I also very badly want to say “no.”  It sucks that war is something that we have to know about.  And as weapons become more and more brutal, so does the carnage.  And to sit here, a child of a Vietnam Veteran, and read/write about this book, it hurts.  I know that my father killed.  I know that the war permanently messed him up, and I know that what Aaron and Stewart have created is not only a tribute to fallen soldiers but a warning to future generations.

The Other Side tells the tale of two soldiers; one young American, and one young Vietnamese.  Their stories paralleled as they march closer to an unavoidable conflict.  Aaron and Stewart humanize both characters, and we understand their torment; we sympathize with their situation.  Both are doing what they think is right, no matter how wrong either side might be.

The book is brutal in its story-telling and its art.  There is no winner.  If you want to feel the hell that is an unwinnable war with lives being left to rot on battlefields, here you go.  I’m not saying it’s not an important read, heck, I’ll argue the opposite: this book should be given to anyone that glorifies the idea of war.  Current generations have grown up in a Call of Duty world.  Shooting an enemy on a screen is not only bad-ass, but it gives your perks and kill-streaks.  And while some of these video games do show the physical devastation of war, this book also delves into the mental struggles of soldiers.

I do enjoy a good shoot-em-up video game, but I also take pause in celebrating it when I remember what war did to my dad.

Before he passed, at his request, I taught my dad to play a little Medal of Honor on the Playstation.  The look on his face while playing was both fascinating and terrifying.  I’m not sure if it was harmful or therapeutic, but one thing I do know for sure: war is a complicated fury that I would not wish on any human being, you just had to look into my father’s eyes to know that.

Happy reading!

Eric

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