Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan

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Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Liberated in Iraq in this excellent graphic novel are four lions when the zoo is hit by bombs. Great drama and only nicely subtle allegories follow in this volume recommended by the Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 136 Date: October 2006
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1845762421

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The creators of this book were obviously not the first in portraying the stupidity of man by showing the innocence and values of the animal kingdom, and they will not be the last. However for some time I am sure they will remain among the most distinctive.

There are four lions living together in Baghdad Zoo, until the 2003 invasion begins and thumps a great hole in their shelter. They might have dreamt of seeing a distant horizon, or going on the hunt for fresh meat, or just idling their time away in peace in the case of the older, one-eyed lioness, but all that becomes a moot point when the human keepers disappear, and any attempts to coerce other species to set the entire animalkind present free are in vain.

It's just... what will the lions encounter in a city, inside strange buildings, under continuous airborne weaponry? And what are the Lions of Babylon?

You might well ask other questions - to a handful of hungry lions, where could any threat come from? Well, with the strong narrative in this short volume, there is plenty of it - and not all towards the cutest little lion cub, Ali. It's over very quickly as a read but there are flashbacks, pauses, mysteries, dramatic fight scenes, but among it all hardly anything that lacks invention, interest or surprise.

It really comes across as an excellent collaborative work between the writer Brian K Vaughan, who provides the scope of the drama, and creates character very easily with the few words of dialogue he gives his cast, and Niko Henrichon, a most superb up-and-coming comic artist, who has an excellent eye for page layout, and whether giving us a rough-looking, quickly-pencilled small picture or the most glorious double-page spread always creates something wonderful (although I have no idea what one corpse is supposed to have been).

The scenario could easily have become the most drivel-laden metaphor for invasion, the force of man against the innocence of the powerful hunter that is the lion, but instead becomes much more multi-faceted. Evil is everywhere, no side has the unique power to usurp the other, and while the lions seem to be ignorant of how to make enemies, things might just change in that regard.

The depths of the plot, added to the nature of the illustrations, make sure this is not a picture book for the young, should anybody be assuming it is. While the art is worthy of any Disney product, if not besting it at times, I can't remember the last time they showed a giraffe getting his head blown off in full technicolour action.

If anything gets a mark-down it might be that some of the colouring is a little unsubtle - the glowing terracotta skies especially; the ending (and I mean the last dialogue page, not the under-title coda spreads) might be too ambiguous even; but perhaps the biggest fault - and would that more books shared it - is that it is too short, and all over very quickly.

On the other hand you have a permanent lesson in the graphic novel craft from two excellent creators, and this takes its award-winning place amongst those few "comic books" the snooty readers of only wordy novels should certainly consider. It comes very highly recommended to all.

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Buy Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan at


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