|'68 JUNGLE JIM No. 3, June 2013|
Creator Mark Kidwell has made it clear that he likes to keep his “readers off their footing” by jumping “to an altogether different branch of the ’68 narrative.” And clearly there are many who enjoy his “individual” and “preferred style of storytelling”, or else his Vietnam-based zombie comic book series would not be an award-winning one. But with “Hellhole: Change… It Had To Come” the special effects creature designer has arguably written a somewhat disorientating third instalment to this four-issue mini-series by having the comic’s ongoing storyline suddenly occur in the past as opposed to the present. As a result for the first eleven pages the blood-drenched action is recounted by both Private Brian Curliss and Miss Manon, and whilst the marine’s ‘voice’ is quickly recognisable, the narration of "Jungle Mother" is a little harder to fathom until the book’s twelfth page makes it obvious.
However even this revelation, a single page depicting the inhabitants of the Salut Glen Mission recovering from the presence of the Viet Cong and subsequent attack of “the Dead”, is unwelcome as it pedestrian pace jars horribly with the fast-flowing tale which occurred beforehand. For one moment the reader is having their senses overloaded with scenes of depravity and torture, most notably the already violated evangelist having her face licked by a gestalt of living corpses, and in the next instant Trang is slowly waking up in a hospital bed having had his life-changing wounds dressed and bandaged. Fortunately for the loyal “‘68 Jungle Jim” gore fans, the gruesome bloodbath of wickedness continues, almost unabated, on the following page, with one hapless Viet Cong soldier having his eyes chewed out of his head by a limbless torso, and the French missionary losing an unhealthy chunk of right forearm to a “smart” zombie.
Disappointingly Kidwell’s decision to keep ‘mixing-up’ his storytelling methodology by occasionally flitting back from the gruesome past to the present, continues to interfere with the harrowing course of the zombies’ ‘brain-fest’ battle with the murderous guerrillas. Albeit these “quick cuts” actually allow those readers unused to such graphic depictions of sexual assault, wanton bodily mutilation and more eyeballs popping out of the head than even an ophthalmologist could track, to at least momentarily catch their breath before their senses are once again assailed with more horrifically chilling blood-letting.
Artist Jeff Zornow delivers some stunningly gruesome single-page splashes during this issue. Most notably a (worryingly cuddly-looking) tiger stalking away from the partially chewed heads of two zombies and then later the arrival of ‘Jungle Jim’ at the ramshackle children’s shelter as Curliss decapitates one living cadaver with a machete and sprays the foliage with the brain matter of several others. Infuriatingly though the Brooklyn-based illustrator’s less gruesome drawings, such as those showing the Mission staff or an unmasked Brian ‘enjoying’ some quieter moments, are far less satisfactory or consistent. Indeed in many ways the undisciplined pencilling looks positively rushed, almost as if Zornow was eager to dispense with the sedentary scenes and swiftly return to his well-detailed depictions of reanimated corpses causing carnage.
|The variant cover art of "'68 JUNGLE JIM" No. 3 by Nat Jones and Jay Fotos|