Hi, everybody! It’s Delta-v bringing you a real change of pace webcomic. What we have here is the more-or-less true story of what it was like for our troops in Iraq. Sometimes head-scratchingly bemusing, often side-splittingly funny, but always interesting, artist and author CF Grant (he prefers “Coyote”) gives us an illuminating peek into the lives and times of those who were there. Taking possibly the greatest risk of his comic career, Coyote gave me, someone who has never served, permission to review his work.
Let’s see how I do. Friends, let’s go take a look at BOHICA Blues.
BOHICA Blues follows the activities of the fictional 213th Combat Engineer Battalion (the name was made up so no one would feel picked on). The word “BOHICA” itself is an acronym for the more pungent military version of the phrase “(bad stuff) happens”, with an even greater emphasis on the inevitability of it all. For the truly curious, Coyote explains it in “BOHICA, Joe Rock, and a Bit of History”, found under “About BOHICA Blues:” in the right sidebar of the site.
Our rather hapless protagonist, Specialist Joe Rock, under his new status as a Reservist (rather than Active Duty), reports to the headquarters of his new unit expecting a perfunctory greeting and a pleasant transition to mostly civilian life only to be met with:
The situation isn’t all bad, however. Because the 213th is understrength, personnel from other units are brought in to fill the empty slots. Thus it is that in the crush of new arrivals, Joe sees a familiar face.
And so we meet Specialist Jorge “Junior Rick” Ricardo, sidekick, sounding board, fellow sufferer, and foil for Joe. Rick takes a lot more things in stride than Joe does, and is quicker to see and act on opportunities that present themselves. They make a good team.
There is actually quite a cast that weaves in and out of the story, but for the purposes of the narrative, the next most important character is pretty unprepossessing.
Private First Class Bradley Patterson is fresh out of basic training, and still trying to make sense of his new world. He didn’t expect to be deployed any more than Joe Rock did, but unlike Joe, Brad was surprised about it. He asks all the dumb questions, not realizing that in most cases, the answers are as dumb as the questions.
The 213th spends three weeks training, because even for the Regulars “Active Duty” doesn’t always mean “Battle Ready”, and it also takes time for any group to learn to function as a team.
When they are finally deployed to Iraq, the 213th travels to their assigned base in a convoy, which is roughly similar to walking to a stadium in another town to compete in your track and field event. Arriving at base, they settle in to building things, destroying things, and performing all the other things expected of an engineering battalion.
I realize that this doesn’t sound all that exciting, but, believe me, it isn’t the “what” that’s interesting, it’s the “how”.
How I Found It:
I offered to trade Top Web Comic votes with Coyote. I don’t know what he ended up doing, but I’ve been keeping my end of the bargain. ^^
Why I Like It:
Lets start with the fact that it’s funny, very funny, and funny in a way that even someone like me who doesn’t get the inside jokes without explanations can appreciate. And then Coyote does explain, so we can all enjoy it.
As with so much humor taken from real life, Coyote depends quite a bit on gently stretching things to make them funnier–edited reality, in a way–while maintaining that vital link with reality that gives it punch. Along with that, a good deal of the humor derives from lampoonable incidents, so some stretching is vital. Here’s a case in point where the stretching is a little more …..vigorous….. than some other places.
While I doubt that anyone was actually turned into a zombie by mosquito-bite blood loss, I can believe that quite a few of the troops felt that way.
I actually found the pointed humor reminiscent of Walt Kelly (Pogo), and Al Capp (Lil’ Abner), comics that ended their run years before Coyote was born, and he may have never even heard of them. I’m not sure how that influence has filtered down over the years, but it’s still very effective.
There is no actual plot any more than the real life it’s following has a plot, but the situations and mini-arcs which Coyote has chosen to highlight about life over there gives us insight as revealing as a novel could be. I found it impressive.
The artwork has developed to something akin to what you would find in a good-quality cartoon, with excellent expressions and good body language which is becoming more fluid with time. There has been a remarkable improvement in the quality of the art in the mere year and a half that he’s been drawing this comic.
Things I Think Could Be Better:
I had a little trouble with the archive format which makes it a bit harder to find a particular page, and since there are two different page formats with navigation buttons in different places from each other, it bogged me down even more. On the other hand, since I’m finished with it now, archive diving is not such a big deal for me. :)
Everything else seems to be fine.
As anyone who reads these reviews should know by now, I have a weakness for information about things I’m not all that familiar with–I’m quite the nerd, in fact. It may seem strange to mention nerdiness where the military is concerned (except for the electronics and computer techs, of course), but I’m fascinated with what BOHICA Blues has shown me. Believe it or not, I have an even greater respect for our soldiers now than I did before I started reading, and my respect level was pretty high even back then.
I would not hesitate to recommend BOHICA Blues to anyone who wants a little food for thought with the candy of humorous situations, and would especially recommend it to those who haven’t been there, but think they know. It’s is also funny apart from anything else, so , yeah, there’s that. :)
Coyote, thank you for your service.
All images are the property of author/artist CF Grant, and are used by permission.