Two Generals, and Pride of Baghdad

02Jan11

I’ve appreciated a couple of graphic novels in the last year — Two Generals, a Second World War story of two Canadian soldiers and friends (who jokingly refer to themselves as the two generals) is both written and illustrated by Scott Chantler to tell the story of his grandfather and close friend, “lest such delicate personal lines be lost among the broader strokes of history.” Chantler uses as many as nine panels on a page to keep a detailed story humming along, but sometimes pauses to include a two-page spread for greater impact. His illustrations feel quite warm rather than harshly cold and realistic, and while that serves to endear the reader to his characters and bring a human quality to the story, it also somehow manages to emphasize the bizarre nightmare of battle when it arrives. Personal details that survived the generations are woven neatly together with the larger events of history.

Pride of Baghdad takes a harder-edged and very realistic illustration style to the apparently true story of a pride of lions blown free of the Baghdad zoo during a 2003 American bombing raid. Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Niko Henrichon, it’s an even harsher story, given that the animals encounter indifference and hostility from other animals, and the reader knows all along that as soon as they encounter an army, the story will be over. Without even a subplot about the kinds of friendships people form to get through the experience, it’s something closer to a howl of despair at the chaos and destruction.

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