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‘Chosin’ Graphic Novel Review

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Based on the epic true story of the Chosin Reservoir campaign of the Korean War!

In the winter of 1950, deep within the frozen mountains of North Korea, 15,000 U.S. Soldiers and Marines were surrounded and trapped by 120,000 Chinese soldiers. Despite the odds, the Marines refused to surrender and fought their way 78 miles to the sea and rescued 98,000 refugees. The two stories in this book tell a tale of sacrifice and courage that contends with the story of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae as one of the most heroic feats in history.

GoodReads description of ‘Chosin’, the graphic novel

While the description of the graphic novel ‘Chosin – hold the line’ sounds interesting, the illustrations and story-telling do not match up to an average comic enthusiast’s expectations. While I usually finish off graphic novels in a day or maximum two, it had taken me days to finish this one, because the artwork just couldn’t hold my attention.

Told largely from the point of view of U.S soldiers who brave their way through nail-biting cold to fight Chinese soldiers, ‘Chosin’ definitely has a story worth telling, but felt like blatant American propaganda. This was especially the case because in many pages, the Chinese soldiers were drawn like monsters without any facial features. While the American marines had kind, likable faces, most of the enemy soldiers looked like rabid animals.

The narration is not very gripping, but the writers manage to capture the chilling futility of war very well. At several points the reader would severely detest the very idea of sending away thousands of young men to their deaths. One also gets a sense of the toxic-masculinity that exists within the ranks of any army. For example, there is a scene where the U.S soldiers are in total despair, quite sure that they going to be slaughtered like chickens, when a marine asks his senior if they are going to be rescued; the senior promptly responds how ‘rescued’ sounds effeminate and that ‘women get rescued, men are reinforced’. You see how dying a brutal death is glamorized, like choosing retreat over a losing battle is the worst thing one can do.

The illustrations get a lot better towards the second-half of the book, where the focus shifts from U.S soldiers to two Korean children who flee their homes after their father is killed by the Chinese. Their mother instructs them to find American troops and take their help to escape to South-Korea. It was heart-warming to see how troops do all they can to help two little kids survive hostilities and find their way to the south.

I ended up reading a lot of material on the ‘Battle of Chosin’ after reading this graphic novel, since the book doesn’t pack enough information. It’s a 3/5 from me for the graphic novel.

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