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Graphic Novel Review – Pride Of Baghdad

As I’ve explained before, I don’t consider myself a conoceur of graphic novels, being that I’ve only been reading them on a regular basis for less than a year.  Yet, I have been lucky enough to get a good vibe from briefs and summaries of the stories and so far, most of my selections have been good ones.  The latest one I’ve read, was one created by Bryan K Vaughan, the guy that made Y: The Last Man.  That was good enough for me to give it a try.  So I bought Pride of Baghdad, without having a clue what it was about.  All I really knew was the cover had on it.  It said “it was a tragedy”.  In more than one aspect I have to say that it truly was.

By looking at the cover art, you can pretty much tell it involves lions and as you start reading the first few pages before the story, the reader gets a brief description of what they are about to read.  This is the story of a few lions that lived in a Zoo in Iraq (a group of lions is called a pride), that suddenly became free and wandered around the city until the moment they met their destiny.  Right now you might be thinking, what the fuck? But bear with me for a minute.  After all this is a Vaughan work.

They can talk.  Yes, like the lions in The Lion King.  So now it’s not just about a couple of lions going grraawww on every page of the book.  For starters, this is a true story.  Not the talking part, that’s fictional, but during the first Iraq war there were four lions that escaped the zoo and this is a make believe interpretation of what they might have gone thru.  Kind of like with the Titanic movie.  The boat was real, the relationship of the two main characters…nnnnot so much.

So you have a male lion, a female, a cub and an old female lion.  In the story, all of them except the cub where born in the wild and then brought to the zoo.  The older one was happy living there, since her life in the outside was never easy, yet the others desired to go back and return to the living conditions they once had.  The young one couldn’t understand what was it all about and the descriptions of his parents made little sense.  All of a sudden, the sky comes falling and explosions everywhere create a way out of their holding place.  It’s the US of A and they come to save the day (right Bush Sr?).  So they start to venture out, trying to survive the constant bombs, the metallic rhinos (military tanks), the empty streets of a place they don’t know once was full of people and other hungry beasts they encounter.  Some friendly (meaning easy prey for them) others bigger (meaning they could be dinner).  At the end, just like in real life, they get murdered by American soldiers who probably got scared of seeing a pride of lions in front of them in the middle of a city in ruins.

Now, the conversations among the lions were interesting and in ocassions human-like.  The similarities of the elder giving advice and the younger ones not caring, the sacrifices of parents make for their young, the desires of accomplishment and survival are all there, yet it was the final tone of the book that brought some cynicism into the whole novel by ending it with the words “that day, there where other casualties as well“.  Sharp way of bringing one back to reality to what happened in that location.  On that note I’m going to say that it was a good book  I would have expected a bit more irony in the whole thing, or maybe it’s already there and I haven’t picked up on it or maybe I’m such a cynic that everything short of full sarcasm and cynicsm is incomplete.  

In the other hand, the art was just mesmerizing.  Niko Henrichon, did an amazing work.  Some pages had no conversations going on yet his drawings spoke for themselves.  The pages are filled with lots of yellow, golden and orange; colors of the desert and the animals in the lead.  Definitely, any other style of drawing would probably have made this book into just an ok story.  It was a great combination of Henrichon and Vaughan to pull together something that almost nobody would had imagine a graphic novel could come out of. 

I am surprised I never saw a big push for this book.  After all is made by Vertigo and they have what it takes to make this into a more recognized story.  Perhaps it would get more attention by turning into an animated movie.  It would not surprise me if they did, considering another of Vaughan books is being made into a movie and Hollywood has this graphic novel fever all of a sudden.  It might just work, unless people see it as a Lion King sequel.

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