Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday Revue May 8th: BOHICA Blues

Ladies and Gentlemen...
Let's Take A Moment To Honor Our Service Men And Women...

...With today's webcomic BOHICA Blues by Coyote. 

BOHICA Blues is set during the 2004 Iraqi War and is loosely made up of Coyote's actual experience from his tour of duty there. The webcomic is a slice-of-life about the soldiers in the fictional 213th Combat Engineering Battalion stationed at Camp Victory.

If you've got a political viewpoint about the 2004 war, check it at the door. If you're expecting the romanticized life of a soldier through sacrifice, duty, and honor a la a grandiose Hollywood film, dial back your expectations. This comic sums it up best:



You can tell where Coyote spends his time when it comes to the art. 

There's a real love for military machines and gear, and as I was reading, I could see a lot of effort was spent in depicting them with great detail -- the soldiers' camo, weapons, humvees, and other armored vehicles. Likewise, the soldiers of the 213th Battalion are also depicted with the diversity you'd find in our modern fighting force -- there are men and women and they run the spectrum of ethnicity.

By far the aspect of BOHICA I enjoyed the most was reading Coyote's additional notes on what it was like to actually be there. At one point he writes, war is "90% boredom and 10% sheer terror" and BOHICA is mainly about that 90%. We get a condensed view of what life was like on the ground in Iraq, and it's probably not quite how we think of it. It's not trenches and foxholes, but soldiers living in trailers playing video games in their off hours (a good way to keep out of trouble, he quips at one point).

Modern shops like Starbucks, Cinnabon, and Hardees are in their camp's mall area to bring a bit of home to the front. It's odd to reconcile how we might think of war versus the reality of it depicted through BOHICA, and it's this kind of first-hand account that's interesting to me.

For those of us in the civilian world who remember 9/11 and the ensuing wars, we probably remember a lot of the rah-rah politics and anti-war sentiments of the time. There's probably still a sour taste about all those WMDs that were supposed to be there and subsequently never found. Coyote's divorced those opinions and politics and instead given us a focused and direct depiction of army life. It's non-Hollywood. No glorious speeches about honor and self-sacrifice. The 10% of sheer terror is portrayed with confusion as IEDs or mortars going off in the distance, 4 AM alarms, and the occasional firefight with local insurgents.


As much as I liked the diverse cast of BOHICA, the characters always felt secondary. I'm reading this comic primarily as one soldier's memoir of the Iraqi War. The characters of the comic serve to highlight various gags about army life and life during wartime, but I never cared for the characters themselves. Part of the issue is because there were so many of them and they started to run together. It probably only matters that Joe Rock has any meaningful character progression (which he does) since all of the gags loosely happen around him.

At one point Coyote notes that BOHICA is a new rendition of some gag comics he did while stationed in Iraq. Maybe if he were to consider the material again, he could condense the characters so there are less to keep track of and have story threads that tie the gags together into something more coherent. I'm guessing it might feel like a modern day M*A*S*H.


I read part of BOHICA on my smartphone, and while the site is mobile responsive and perfectly usable, I found that the two giant ads on the sidebar show up over top of the comic. It might be a nice touch to use a CSS media query to show a different image (this would require putting the image as a background image in a div).

I found the History and About section empty, so I wonder why it's there. There's a link to Patreon but it appears to go nowhere. The guy wearing the BOHICA shirt would be nice if it lead to a store, but it doesn't. In other words, there's a lot of dead links making the site feel unfinished. It might be better to stub something in. Also, The archival search is broken when I tested it. 


If you're interested in a first-hand perspective from a soldier who was on the ground in Iraq, then definitely give BOHICA Blues a read.

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