Monday, November 13, 2006

Pride of Baghdad

Back when the Iraq war was in its “shock and awe” stage, the evening news was flooded with stories of humans in all the widely varied situations war tends to stick people in. One event that was nearly lost in all the commotion didn’t involve people at all, though. An American bomb inadvertently freed four lions from the Baghdad zoo. Writer Brian K. Vaughan uses their story as a jumping-off point for a graphic novel that’s possibly one of the most poignant and reflective of the many books, graphic or otherwise, the current war has inspired.

Vaughan himself is an oddity among graphic novelists. Well known for his award-winning work on “Y: The Last Man,” “Runaways,” and “Ex Machina,” Vaughan only rarely illustrates his own writing. For this project he’s teamed up with relative newcomer Niko Henrichon, who possesses a particular talent for rendering expression in animals.

This book toys with ideas of freedom granted by foreign bombs, and the often uncomfortable and insecure nature of freedom itself. Most of the escaped lions were born in the wild, but years of captivity and relative comfort have left them ill-prepared for the war-torn city into which they’re thrust. While there are mature themes in the book, this may be one of a very few graphic novels that finds an audience in readers who typically stick to more conventional fiction.


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