I was honored when Matt Wilkins a former Comic Bastard, asked me to take an early look at his coming comic The Rest of Heaven Was Blue. Then like I always seem to do I waited far too long to review it and bring it to you, the people. The book was picked up by Top Cow and I have to say that is one of the most original things the publisher has released in its long history. All bias aside I went into this comic the way I go into any comic, with zero expectations and was taken on quite the journey. The story takes place during the Vietnam War and follows a platoon of men. Our main character that narrates throughout the issue is named Garrett. Though we’re privy to his inner thoughts never once does he actually speak to any of the other soldiers, which is probably for the best. His thoughts are dark and paint the real picture of what’s happening. Garrett sees the world for what it really is.
The story is very gritty and realistic and while it doesn’t dive as deep as something like Full Metal Jacket in terms of realism, it’s rubbing elbows with it for sure. We meet the platoon during a shootout in which Garrett kills what’s presumably his first human being or at least the one that ushers in the point of no return for him. From there the squad goes through encounter after encounter facing difficult choices and moral decisions. The temptation of evil is great and with each loss on their side the moral compass shifts more and more.
The story is in a lot of ways very abstract. There is a surface level plot of these men trying to make it home without being in a body bag, while facing the decision to follow orders or primal instincts. That’s there so that if you miss the deeper story that Garrett is narrating, you won’t be completely left in the dark. Below that though is a story ripe with metaphors and visual cues that will have you questioning everything on the surface level of the story. I personally enjoy stories like this because they make you think and even leave room for your own interpretation. Unfortunately I can’t give you my interpretation without spoiling the entire story so you’ll have to check it out for yourself. The characters are all very dynamic and memorable making a great read.
The art style is familiar looking and while it’s not the most detailed, it brings a lot to the story. The scratchy line work captures the tone and darkness of the story. The facial expressions tells us everything the characters are thinking which happens to be nothing of what they’re dialog tells us. There are a ton of creepy moments in the story and the art sells the moments perfectly. Flipping through the second time I actually picked up on stuff that I missed which told me that they weren’t meant to be extremely obvious. It was like the book was staring at me and I became used to it... creepy.
Usually I’m not one for war stories and I’ve read/watched enough about the Vietnam War to reach my fill on it, but this book actually surprised me. It wasn’t the same old story of “we’re the bad guys” and here’s why, but rather a complex metaphor of the journey through the war.
The issue also comes with some supplement material of the behind the scenes which is always cool if you’re into the process of making comics. The comic is available digitally so support it that way a kick-ass print edition can be made. I would encourage anyone that’s a fan of war stories or mind bending tales to check it out as you will not be disappointed.
Writer: Matthew Wilkins Artist: Emmanuel Xerx Javier Publisher: Top Cow Comics Price: $4.99 Available on Comixology