Andy Warner’s Online Comics: Man Who Built Beirut, Two Stories
The Man Who Built Beirut is a non-fiction exploration of Middle Eastern politics through the story of the murder of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon and construction mega-mogul, and the demonstrations that followed.
Warner lived in Beirut in 2005 and 2011, so he’s got some personal background on the subject and knows what it should look like. As someone who only vaguely about Lebanon from what I recall hearing on the news in the 80s, this story was eye-opening. It ranks with the best graphic journalism. (There are also notes and a bibliography at the end, for those who want to learn more.)
Warner’s thickly black style grounds his work and gives it weight and portent. His willingness to illustrate settings and details well suits a comic explaining something about a place and its history to unfamiliar readers. He also frequently (and reassuringly) draws himself as pop-eyed, as shown here, to demonstrate the shock and dismay he felt, being tangentially caught up in these events. We don’t know what happened, exactly, and he doesn’t provide answers, just insightful questions.
On a very different note are the couple of tales collected in print as Two Stories, both exploring the nature of grief and loss. “Squirrel” is a memory of a temporary pet rodent, nursed back to health, while “A Ghost” seems to be two boys playing together again after one moved away. Both of these tales are notable more for what they don’t say. There’s a lot of room in them for the reader’s interpretation, like a picture delineated by negative space, the absence of what’s actually shown.
All are available for purchase as minicomics also. Not in print (but it should be), is Warner’s story of breaking his drawing arm, and how he coped with the months that followed. He struggles to learn to become ambidextrous and worries over how much he’ll still have when the cast comes off.