Last Day in Vietnam Review: A Master at Work

Will Eisner is a master.

One of the godfathers of comic art, his was the mind that brought us “A Contract with God,” “Hawks of the Seas,” “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle,” and “The Spirit.” Dark Horse comics brings us his seminal work, “Last Day in Vietnam,” published posthumously after his death in 2005.

It’s not quite a memoir, but a “memory,” as Eisner himself put it; a fictionalized account of his legitimate time spent visiting both North Korea and Vietnam during their respective wartime. It’s amazing.

This is a lush and poignant collection of stories, all of which remain close to the central point of the kinship and brotherhood that is formed in the face of the abject horrors of war. Whether its the eponymous opening tale “Last Day in Vietnam” or the magnificent finale “ Purple Heart of Courage,” the connecting arc throughout this gathering of stories is quite frankly making the best out of a bad situation.

Despite heartbreak, despite injury, you must always try to keep your head up.

Both the artwork and the dialogue are heavily reminiscent of classic, black and white “Sarge” comics, with simple outlines filled in using a stippling technique commonly utilized by tattoo artists, to a breathtaking effect. The resulting imagery is stark, but it veers sharply away from being drab. When combined with the use of still photographs of action in the Vietnam war zone itself, the songs of CCR start pouring into your head.

This is a series of war-stories, that manage to have no combat directly in them.

Mr. Eisner shows an ability to tell the kind of story in a mere 10 pages, that many lesser writers would need 30 to do properly. Told from a 1st person point of view, Mt. Eisner takes us directly into the mind and eyes of the protagonist himself, without any frivolous narrator who would get in the way of such stories. With flavorful dialogue, classical artwork, and a palpable sense of emotion, Mr. Eisner shows that even in death, he is a king. Salute.

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Bradley Hopkins

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