Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pride of Baghdad up there with Watchmen?
Am I reading that right?

Looking at the latest Guardian Unlimited arts blog by Ned Beauman on why comics wont deal with terrorism, I was staggered to find this little quote:

"Has the English-speaking world yet produced a single convincing literary novel about the Iraq war? I certainly haven't read one that's more satisfying than Brian K Vaughan's graphic novel Pride of Baghdad. A fable about four lions who escape from Baghdad Zoo during the bombing, it's already being ranked with Alan Moore's Watchmen. Although it's funny, moving and gorgeous to look at, Vaughan still somehow finds room for a political subtext significantly more thoughtful than anything in, say, Ian McEwan's Saturday."

Pride of Baghdad on a par with Watchmen?
Where? I certainly haven't seen that discussion anywhere else.

Now I certainly didn't like Pride of Baghdad as much as many other people seem to, but even if I'd have loved it, I certainly wouldn't be comparing it with Watchmen. It's just not on the same level.
As for the rest of the article it's just a little bit depressing to see that what Ned really means is "why don't the superheroes want to deal with terrorism?". If he cast his net a little wider than the colourful underpants gang he might find a little more material to talk about.

Okay, in Ned's defense he does go on to briefly mention Pride of Baghdad and Brian Wood's DMZ. But both of these books effectively skirt the issues by blurring the subject matter. Pride, by making the focus shift to the animals and DMZ by presenting a future conflict reminiscent of Escape from New York.

A mention of Exit Wounds or maybe even Joe Sacco's Palestine would have served his story a lot better. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan is a quite beguiling look at an Israeli family's struggle to come to terms with the loss of their father in a suicide bombing in Hadera. Palestine or Safe Area Gorazde are acknowledged classics of modern war reportage that tackle the problems of modern warfare head on as Joe Sacco embeds himself in the communities affected by the fighting.

Now compare that with the image on the Guardian site of Captain America standing proudly whilst jets fly overhead and you can easily see the gulf in attitudes prevalent in comics and their response to anything politically important.

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