Page 43, and the last one until next weekend. In reality, he probably would have hit the balloon with his first round, but if he had gotten the range wrong in the first place it would have taken him two tracers to correct it.
In addition to being a humorous little interlude where the officer and turret gunner hash out how many rounds it would take them to destroy a valuable piece of U.S. equipment, I wrote this exchange into the story to help more accurately show both the relative youth of the people fighting the war and the relationships among them. Almost everyone in a U.S. Army platoon such as the one illustrated here will be under 30, and while there is most certainly an element of professionalism in the military, it’s also to some extent just a bunch of young guys out there fucking around and armed with automatic weapons, which I am trying to illustrate here in a subtle way. Tim O’Brien expresses it well in The Things They Carried when he has guys playing hot potato with a smoke grenade prior to an engagement of some kind, but a lot of fiction set in wartime doesn’t do it as well, showing American Soldiers as either depressive dropouts (Platoon) or as unemotional, ultra-professional white knights (all Tom Clancy books). The reality is, of course, neither of these. The other thing that this shows is the officer/enlisted relationship in this type of situation. In the garrison U.S. Army, the relationship between officers and junior enlisted Soldiers (E1-E4) is quite distant, as it should be. Downrange, however, it’s just three guys working together to fight the vehicle, so the interpersonal relationship is necessarily closer. Striking this balance is difficult, especially when you redeploy and the officers go back to being the distant “boss’s boss’s boss’s boss,” and the judge and jury.
Redeployment issues will be addressed in the book after next, to be finished by ~2017, and which now exists only as post-it notes. On the one hand, I’m glad to have enough ideas for comics to keep me busy at least into my 40s, but on the other the amount of time it takes to complete these has proven to be pretty daunting.