‘Pride of Baghdad’ review
By Brittney MacDonald, Senior Columnist
Loosely based on a true story, Pride of Baghdad presents the tale of four lions liberated from an Iraqi zoo thanks to an American bombing. Despite an original concept and some rather poignant commentary on the nature of captivity and the life of a refugee, the graphic novel’s overwhelming American nationalism spoils any positive life lessons that could have been learned.
Penned by award-winning writer Brian Vaughan, the story fictionalizes the adventures of four real lions that escaped from captivity. The graphic novel follows their journey through a war-torn city, encountering other animals and learning to survive outside of the care of the zookeepers. Their journey is an allegory for that of the Iraqi people. Displaced, and with no home to return to, they press on despite not knowing where to go or what to do. The characters Vaughan develops begin to question the nature of freedom and whether they should view their previous captors as benevolent for caring for them, or oppressive for imprisoning them.
Where the narrative runs into trouble is when it attempts to implant American ideals of freedom and strength in subjects that are meant to represent a foreign people. In doing so, it disregards any Iraqi national identity, effectively white-washing the characters and making them disingenuous.
The art by Niko Henrichon is impressive, featuring an earthy palette that makes the otherwise fantastical journey of four talking lions seem more organic. The style Henrichon uses is neither modern nor traditional but a bit cartoony, which helps impart expression into the anatomy of the characters’ animal facial features and body language.
Since the American nationalistic attitudes are subtle it is easy to miss why they are offensive. Therefore, I only recommend Pride of Baghdad to readers who are interested in cultural politics, and not the everyday graphic novel reader.