Thursday, August 13, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: Pride of Baghdad

Pride of Baghdad is one of those graphic novels that I just "stumbled across" for lack of a better combination of words. Pride of Baghdad is based on the true events of a pride of lions that were released into the city from the Baghdad Zoo during the attack and subsequent invasion of U.S. forces. The graphic novel explains how the pride lived, how they escaped during the bombings and how they tried to survive on the streets of the city. 

While the graphic novel is a fictionalized account of the events that occurred, the dynamic between the members of the pride is not only very real but very interesting. Zill is the lion of the pride that has grown comfortable living a life in which everything is provided to him. For this reason, the old lioness, Safa, taunts him for being an incompetent protector. Safa has an ear that's missing a chunk and an eye that is scratched out, both of which occurred, because the male of her pride when she lived in the wild, was unable to protect her. Therefore, Safa likes the safety of the zoo and would never dream of leaving it. The third adult member of the pride is Noor, Zill's current mate and the mother of their cub, Ali. Noor is always trying to find ways to escape from the zoo, believing that the wild is where they belong. Due to her constant schemings, Safa strongly dislikes Noor and argues that Noor would never know how to survive in the wild after such a long time in a cage.

As the group argues and annoys each other, planes fly overheard and pretty soon, all hell breaks loose. Once the bombing is over, the pride finds themselves free and must find a way to survive in the wild while also having to find a way to work together despite their differences in opinion and skill. Throughout their journey, they meet other animals, each of which has suffered in their own way due to humans. The one that really impacted me was when Safa and Ali meet a turtle who tells them that the humans like to inject poison underground. This is followed by a drawing of what the turtle has seen in the past and it's very clear that he is remembering an oil spill and how it drowned his family and friends. If animals could talk, I'm pretty sure that they would respond in the same way the turtle did when Ali asked him what the humans are fighting about, "Hell if I know, hell if I care."

The graphic novel progresses at a good pace and there are many instances in which it's pretty obvious that events that are occurring to the pride are a symbol for what occurred to the people of Iraq themselves. There's no better representation of this, in my opinion, than at the very end, when U.S. soldiers encounter the pride in the city. Those last few pages are really powerful and really drive home why the idea of "preemptive strikes" are just so wrong. There is also the scene where Zil gets to show Ali what a horizon looks like, and there's just so much that's being symbolized by what occurs right before and what occurs right after this moment in time.

I personally quite like the drawings and the layout of the panels. I also really liked the amount of detail that was put into the background as well. Overall, I really enjoyed this graphic novel and I really enjoyed looking past the surface to understand the symbolism behind certain scenes. It's an excellent short graphic novel and I would definitely recommend it.


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