- Posted by Johanna on December 3, 2006 at 7:59 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: story by Brian K. Vaughan; art by Niko Henrichon
- PUBLISHER: DC / Vertigo; $19.99 US
Pride of Baghdad is an ambitious book. It’s based on the true story of a small group of lions that escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during the American bombing of Iraq in 2003. As one might guess, it falls into the long-established category of works that use animals to attempt to say something about human nature — and in this case, it succeeds, with writer Brian K. Vaughan using the lions’ conversations and battles to make points about the struggle for freedom.
Of course, it wouldn’t work without superlative art from Niko Henrichon. The lions become fully realized characters while still remaining beasts, with animal body language and attitude. Henrichon also does an outstanding job with the settings, whether war-torn city or sun-dappled glade. It’s a very easy-to-read book, which makes the sudden ending all the more powerful.
The pride is made up of a male, two females (one aged and half-blind), and a cub. That mix provides a variety of viewpoints, whether the titular head of the family who has no real control or the young woman dreaming of collective action to make the world better or the wiser old woman who isn’t always listened to, to the others’ downfall.
Some of the happenings are a bit too convenient (for example, the two surprise rescues), and the writer occasionally allows the cub too many awww-inducing moments of cuteness. This isn’t a simplistic story, though, with an obvious message. Early on, the downside of freedom in a violent world is demonstrated with a rape sequence. (This book, animals and all, is also not for kids.) Memories and stories can be more comforting than the real thing, or they can spur others to action through retellings.
The beasts frequently argue among themselves about what to do next, now that their world has changed and their future is no longer predictable. Their struggles shed light on our own.