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How does this man have so much time?
Pride of Baghdad is an award-winning story about four lions that escaped from their zoo during the bombing of Baghdad in 2003.
They were then found roaming the streets of Baghdad by US troops.
[Spoiler: Article about the real life event. Avoid until you've read the story.]
It makes for interesting reading.
Their tale takes them from their captivity to dreams of the freedom, then into the city of Baghdad (which resembles barren desert more than freedom at this point.)
There are moments throughout the book where the writer uses ignorance of the world of man to make subtle commentaries on the Iraq war.
One of the most explicit (and memorable) is the observation that the Iraqi tanks they come across are some kind of predator.
I have to admit to be a long time fan of Vaughan’s work. I first encountered his writing in the third volume of Swamp Thing, which unfortunately is still uncollected.
BKV’s style is suited towards characters that evolve slowly, growing socially through some 50 odd issues.
If you’re familiar with his longer runs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that an original graphic novel wouldn’t suit his writing style and that it’d be over before the characters had even grown familiar.
Thankfully this wasn’t the case. I was able to connect with every character quickly.
My only real complaint is that it was over too quick. Even though it is 130 pages long, it feels like it’s half that as it goes by so fast.
This is both a testament to his writing skills and versatility; that he was able to switch from serial writing to this style without losing quality.
I have to admit that I had somehow never recognized his name before this book, despite owning Barnum.
After reading Pride of Baghdad, I was left seeking more of his work, only to be annoyed at how little there is out there.
To say I was blown away by his illustrations would be putting it mildly; every page could be enlarged and made into a stunning poster with no retouching required.
I have recently stated how I dislike the glossy paper in the newer collections, in comparison to the old rougher paper. It can make colours with a forced saturation to them.
This needn’t be the case, as Niko shows here. While the pages are full of vibrant colour, it’s all in harmony that I can only imagine leaves other artists in envy of his skills.
There is no escaping the commentary on the Iraqi War as you read this, but it is subtle enough that it doesn’t detract from the flow of the plot.
Pride of Baghdad is a book in my collection that I give to friends who have never read a comic before or claim to dislike the medium. I have yet to receive it back from someone who wasn’t moved by it.
I remember one comment that sums up a layman’s impression better than I ever could:
”I have never liked comics but this book isn’t a comic. It is art.”
To be fair they are right. It should be 5 stars. I’m just a bit hesitant because all my recent reviews are so highly rated.
As a self contained Original Graphic Novel, there’s no continuity to speak of.
Delve straight into this. If you feel you must do something before jumping into the book then watch The Lion King again.
That should get you reacquainted with talking lions.
Go check out Niko’s wonderful website and drool some more at his great artwork .
Ian also heartily recommends Beasts of Burden for your talking animal fix.