Best Shots Advance: Image's '68: HARDSHIP - Reviewed!


'68: Hardship #1

Written by Mark Kidwell

Art by Jeff Zornow and Jay Fotos

Published by Image Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Some people might say that there are worse things out there than zombies. Some might say that the darkness of the human soul might be more virulent than any plague of the walking dead.

And then there are sadists like Mark Kidwell who decide to throw both sides in a cage and tell them to duke it out.

Dark, menacing and as sharp as a serrated bowie knife, '68: Hardship continues to impress just as much as its predecessor, as the undead-meets-Vietnam story keeps up with the gore with glee. Whereas the original series focused on troops overseas, this one-shot takes an even darker turn, following a soldier upon his return home. Having fought the Vietnamese for years, Teddy Calhoun is on a hair-trigger, and it doesn't matter if you're a zombie or not, he's as lethal upon his return home as he ever was on the battlefield. Seeing how unbalanced Teddy is makes for a striking counterpoint to the looming, maggot-encrusted hordes of the undead — these zombies just gotta eat. Teddy, on the other hand, will drop a claymore on your face and not even blink.

Jeff Zornow and Jay Fotos, meanwhile, really follow in the footsteps of those early Image artists Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo, with ultra-expressive characters that have no problems getting torn apart, maimed or otherwise being drowned in their own insanity. The gore factor is totally cranked to 11, with heads exploding and one particularly memorable scene involving a thresher, but what I really enjoyed was the look on Teddy's face, as he began to see Vietnam in every corner of America. The look of determination, the outright enthusiasm in his eyes, that is the scary part of this book, that is the thing that makes him as scary, if not more so, than the zombies he inadvertently massacres along the way.

In a lot of ways, '68: Hardship reminds me of one of those old Tales from the Crypt stories, in the fact that it's totally self-contained and really scores a knockout based on concept alone. If Walking Dead moves too slowly for your speed, this is a welcome change of pace, getting the zombies and action in fast and letting the backstory catch up along the way. '68 as an idea is one of the more clever premises I've seen in a long time, and this one-shot makes me look forward to the next set of stories Kidwell and company decide to tell. 

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