Yep, I said I'd be back to review Pride of Baghdad (and if I didn't say it, I meant to) so here goes. I finished reading it on Friday and spent the weekend thinking about what I was going to say in this review. The hype surrounding this book had it mentioned along side such landmark comics such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Dark Knight Returns, etc, etc. It's also going beyond those books by generating media attention from outside the comic world. So that left me thinking, did it deserve the hype? Is it really as good and as ground breaking as those other books? To be honest, those are tough questions to answer.
Before discussing those, let's just go with a straight on review. First up, the art. This book is beautiful. Period. The animals showed a good deal of realism while still allowing for artistic liberties to portray emotions. The backgrounds are simply amazing. It's simple storytelling. Nothing too dynamic or too difficult. Almost like they were gearing this book for people who might not be used to reading comics and would get lost in complex layouts and such. But there's enough dynamic elements to it that you don't get bored with face on shots or anything like that. As someone who dabbles in art myself, I really was amazed by this book on the art side of things. And in when it came to violence (which the book has its fair share of along with mature themes) the art really shocks the reader, as it should for scenes like this.
The writing and story (the meat of the book), when I finished reading this my first thought was "what is the author trying to say about the Iraq war?" Now maybe I missed the point of the book but my interpretation is that it's not quite as simple as that. There are so many themes brought up in this book that I think it would be a disservice to limit its scope to be a comment on a single event in our lives. It provokes so many thoughts and feelings about life that can't be ignored. The final line of the book invokes so much emotion and I can people interpreting it various ways. My interpretation? I think I'll keep that to myself for now. I'd prefer anyone reading it will come to their own conclusions without any bias from my review.
But it's also not the easiest book to read. I mean, it is a book containing talking lions. Lions who communicate and make plans with monkeys and antalope. And if you start to think of these lions as people they turn and do something very lionesque. So it requires an open mind on the reader's part to succeed.
So, did it deserve the hype? After thinking about it for a few days I'd have to go with yes, it did. Whether this book will have the impact on the comic book world that those previously mentioned books did remains to be seen but on its own, this book delivers. Tackling "real" issues like this book does is really nothing new for comics (see V for Vendetta for a quick and easy example although V uses fictional events whereas Pride is based on a true story) and is done often so in some ways, perhaps it doesn't warrant being seen as a "landmark" comic book. But on the other hand, there are elements of the book (the real events for example) that make this book even more important.
Does any of that make sense? Probably not. In the end, we'll have to wait and see what its place in comic book history will be. For now, this book goes down as one of the best graphic novels I've read.