Thursday, January 03, 2008
Review: Shooting War
This webcomic-turned-graphic novel about the Iraq War follows the misadventures of vlogger Jimmy Burns, after a freak coverage of an explosion in New York places him at the forefront of shock journalism, he is hired by an exploitative news network and sent to Iraq, where he finds himself submerged in a cesspool of "Jesus and Jihad maniacs" left and right.
I have heard of this one casually on TV, and I have so far read the unedited free eleven chapters online on the website, as an Iraqi, I came naturally expecting some gloss oversights in the depiction of my beloved Mesopotamia, after all, the comic would most likely not try to burden its intended audience with unnecessary details about the culture and nature of the conflict, and this being a comic book, exaggeration and tampering in favor of action and excitement is the norm, right?
Wrong. First of all, this is not a comic book ; it's a graphic novel. And graphic novels as such, exemplified by the Pulitzer-winning standards set forth by Art Spiegelman's Maus, stem from the their ability to present somber realism in an abstract perspective, indeed, the Iraq war is not devoid of elements worthy of a frenzy "clusterfuck" narration as the comic calls it, but rather unfortunately, this novel fails on the single most important area where it could count.
Like many tongue-in-cheek works about war (think Joe Haldeman's The Forever War), the only dialog this novel knows is one steeped in deadpan humor, the depiction of "Greenest Place of all of Muhammed's Green Earth" is dystopia as best as it can get, there are a lot of interesting depictions of developments in blogging, media, American presidency (John McCain), and Tom Cruise's personal life, this is all well and dandy so far.
Unlike the guys who wrote this comic, I've reserved an hour and researched them, the Internet says that Anthony Lappe, the main showrunner, claims he drew upon his experiences while he worked in the Iraq war zone, one thing's for sure, this Lappe guy doesn't get out much ; for a novel that's supposed to cut the bullshit to a minimum, this effort is laughable. Okay, so I might be willing to forgive the stereotypical condescending portrayal of every Iraqi with a traditional attire like some Gulf country, hell, even the commonplace Hollywod insult will go by me just fine ("Ice is civillization", declared proudly by the uber-cool Burns to a poor Iraqi receptionist, only he's wearing a Pakistani outfit :) ), add to that the only good Iraqi character is the educated Westernized woman, another ancient "compromise" character right out of the "hey, I didn't say you're all bad"; but this "scary smart" novel started to make me laugh for all the unintended reasons at the horribly ignorant and contrived plot ; apparently, as soon as he sets foot in Iraq, our hero is kidnapped by a terrorist group near Anbar, called the Swords of Muhammed, led by Che Guevara with a Keffiyeh, your run-of-the-mill megalomaniac ultra-villian, this is all okay, except for one huge error ; this group is Shiite! Har Har, okay, let's forgive this minor slip for the sake of the general drive, but by the time you are bombared by lines such as : "The Badr militia is going to target the Green Zone with Qassam rockets." You start to question the intelligence of all those comments that praise this "real as it gets" drama, okay, I'll be even more considerate of your South Carolina Teen ideas about the world and would accept all this if there was any good story in sight, but there's nothing here you haven't seen before, the only appeal of this story lies at its ability to depict reality, when you see that it's nothing but a random exploitation of current events written by somebody who clearly knows nothing about the topic, you only sigh and wonder if Americans will ever learn from their mistakes, this comic clearly commits the same error Dubya and his hungry compatriots it so loathes did, it think it knows everything. If that's all not bad enough, it is clearly Islamophobic, what is there to say about a comic which believes that both Shia and Sunni Muslims are a single monolithic entity that so feverishly wants to spread its religion over the evil West so that every woman and child are part of its holy jihad. Indeed, those stereotypes were as much contributed to by our beloved terrorists than it did by the west, but you'd hope for something much more real from this "all-out" novel than frustrated Sunni Moroccans recruited from France to carry out an operation for the Shiite Badr brigade with Iranian passports?! okay, so they are really part of the Swords of Muhammed group, unfortunately, that one is Shia too, and it operates in Anbar and condemns the massacres of Haditha, Najaf, and Falluja. So much for your clever twist, and novel.