Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pride of Baghdad

The lions in Brian K. Vaughan's graphic novel Pride of Baghdad (based on a true story) talk.

One of them, Noor, longs to be free from the captivity of the zoo - she is constantly lobbying the antelopes to support her escape plan. Another, Safa, bears her ominous suspicion of everyone like a cross. Zill, the head of the brood, is constantly worried about his family, especially his son Ali who struts around with the curiousity of a young child.

All of them are residents of Baghdad zoo. Its the summer of 2003 and Iraq is being pounded by American jets first and cavalry immediately afterwards. A shell sets them free - in fact it liberates all the animals in the zoo. And the pride of lions set off on a journey through the war torn streets of Baghdad.

Although the premise might make your eyes roll, Pride of Baghdad is an incredibly human story. By making his primary characters animals, Vaughan is able to infuse his story with raw, unadulterated emotion that would have looked forced on humans. His story is a commentary on numerous issues - war, the environment, the delicate balance of animals in nature, the oppressive regime in Iraq and the force with which the country was rapidly brutalized. Early on, there is a brief, captivating examination of zoos versus the wild - told for the first time (I'm sure) from the lions' point of view.

Vaughan's sense of drama is well served by Niko Henrichon's artwork. Drawing in a loose, thin hand Henrichon covers a lot of territory - animals, machines, devastation and a thrilling hunt. Its no mean feat to render four animals with distinct characters - but he pulls it off in spades.

Pride of Baghdad is a violent, heartbreaking tale. By giving us a story of animals rediscovering a different kind of wild, Vaughan is able to connect the dots for us between the tender yet savage behavior of the lions and our own primal nature. There is nothing civil, he seems to be telling us, about civilization.


Anonymous said...

Doesnt make me want to roll my eyes at all - i think its inspired. looking up amazon now...

Unknown said...

Good for you! The first two people I mentioned it to rolled their eyes. :(

Anonymous said...

Seems to me like Madagascar meets Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Ha, well, i'm trying to write the genre so... :D