Review of “Chosin: To the Sea”

Of all the presentations at the 2014 GI Film Festival Filmmaker Bootcamp, I most enjoyed Brian Iglesias. A Marine (currently serving in the Reserves) and filmmaker, Iglesias directed the documentary film, “Chosin,” and is currently expanding the universe of the project through The Chosin Project. (For those interested in more background, check out my profile of Iglesias in the Job Envy section of Task and Purpose.) The presentation was about multimedia branding, in other words, launching your project on multiple media platforms. Fittingly, Iglesias brought copies of the single comic “Chosin: To the Sea,” which he wrote as part of a comic book extension of the stories contained in the documentary.

Click on cover to purchase your copy...

Click on cover to purchase your copy…

Although the documentary “Chosin” primarily focuses on the Marines who fought this action during the Korean War, the comic book, written by Brian Iglesias, with lettering and art by Otis Frampton, takes a different angle, as seen in the front cover. As many people who have served overseas have experienced, the enemy is not the only one running around the battlefield. Civilians — residents, refugees, the young, the old — are there as well, sometimes victimized by one side, sometimes by the other, often by both.  This comic tells the story of two children, fleeing from the Chinese, who join the exodus from North Korea with the help of an old woman and the US Marines.

The artwork is plain, stark, and graphic. There are no euphemisms or fades to black. There are subtle elements that a reader might miss on the first pass, such as the American who gives the little girl his jacket before bleeding out from wounds sustained in fighting, or the old man who scolds the girl later for wearing the jacket, telling her that the Chinese will kill her if she’s seen wearing it. Of course, she has already seen the Chinese killing people who weren’t wearing American clothing.

The writing is direct and to the point. Although there are moments of heroism, they are not presented in a jingoistic manner. Instead, they are presented as just another day in the life of the Marines fighting in the conflict. True to the comic’s pedigree as part of a documentary project, the story is bookended by archival photographs and a short background of the history of the Battle of Chosin and the evacuation of the North Korean refugees.

Although there are two comics in the project, this one stands alone as a complete story. I both recommend it highly, and am looking forward to picking up and reading the other. For more information on the documentary, the comics, and the animated short, check out The Chosin Project.

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