The Other Side

Author: Jason Aaron
Artist: Cameron Stewart
Titan Books
RRP: 8.99, US $12.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84576 561 3
ISBN-10: 1 84576 561 1
Available 27 July 2007

Private Billy Everette is a marine, a soldier fighting in Vietnam. Vo Binh Dai is also a soldier, fighting for the people's army of Vietnam. These two young men have never met. They're not aware of each other's existence. And yet, in a war-torn country, in a battle that no sane mind can comprehend, their destinies are on a collision course. As the madness of war takes hold of both men, Everette is haunted by the ghosts of the soldiers that came before him and Vo Binh Dai sees himself as a mystic warrior on an enlightened quest. But neither man can truly face the reality of his situation until it is too late...

I wonder how many people will be put off from purchasing this graphic novel by the quote from Variety on the front cover. "...worth reading to the end." Hmm, not really the most inspired endorsement I've ever read. It almost sounds as though it's taken from a poor review that doesn't think much of the book, but urges you to wade through the rubbish to get to a half decent conclusion.

The Other Side is set during the height of the Vietnam war and follows two young men, from opposite sides of the Earth, who must drag themselves through Hell - for the opportunity to kill one another. When nineteen-year-old Alabama farm boy Bill Everette is drafted into the Marine Corps in 1967, his only goal is to get through his tour in one piece. Meanwhile, Vo Binh Dai, a nineteen-year-old farmer, enlists in the People's Army of Vietnam, intent on dying bravely for his country. Both men are haunted by their missions - Everette sees visions of dead soldiers, and Dai sees real death throughout his long march...

"Oh, Great!" I hear you cry. "Yet another Vietnam war story." What's interesting about The Other Side is that it's not really about the Vietnam war - it could just as easily be set in the the current Iraq war, World War II, or any battle for that matter. What's paramount here is the very personal experiences of two very similar young souls who, are experiencing a war from a totally different perspective.

In truth this collection is an interesting, mature tale that explores some of the horrors of fighting for your cause (or someone else's). Showing both sides of the war (although ultimately the American side punches through as the most important - with Vo Binh Dai's fight seem to be born out of an rather naive belief of how the world is run, while Everette is seen as a useless man not really sure what he's doing in a foreign land - fighting for a people who don't really want him there. Vo Binh Dai seems to be happy to die for his beliefs, while Everette just want to go back home.

There is also an interesting Vietnam Diary by artist Cameron Stewart as well as a few pages of rough sketches and some text on the main inspiration for the story. At the end of the day this is an entertaining read that brings home the futility of war.

Nick Smithson

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