These are some very brief reviews indeed because I have had so much else on this month, I’m frankly amazed I’ve found time to read at all. Before I zone out in front of another half-dozen episodes of The Big Bang Theory, here is what I’ve been reading.
Pride of Baghdad
by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Niko Henrichon (artist)
This is a beautiful, moving and unusual perspective on war. It takes as inspiration the 2003 news story that four lions escaped Baghdad Zoo during a bombing raid in the Iraq War. Vaughan and Henrichon give the lions names and personalities, and this does result in some anthropomorphising, but that can be forgiven because the result is so good.
Between the desert, the lions and the fire of war, the colour palette is mostly shades of orange, which makes it striking. There is real danger, violence and fear. Though the lions’ role as predators searching for a kill is never forgotten, it’s hard not to root for them. This could probably be read as an allegory of the effect of war on innocent civilians, but the creators keep it fairly well reined in as a tale about animals in search of a meal, with unusual obstacles placed in their path – including the fact that they are used to captivity and don’t know about the dangers of a city, let alone a city under siege. There are lots of full-page and double-page images that stopped me with their grandeur. I have flicked through this again a few times to absorb the gorgeous artwork.
Published 2006 by DC Comics.
Source: Excelsior Comics, Bristol.
Gather Together in my Name
by Maya Angelou
This is the second volume of Maya Angelou’s memoir, picking up where I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings left off. As a 17-year-old single mother in San Francisco in 1945, life isn’t easy, but Maya does make mistake after mistake that make it harder on her. She’s going out to work and raising a child, but she’s still a teenager herself. She’s naïve about love and men, easily duped, but she also has the confidence and arrogance of youth. Her story is sometimes shocking, even by modern standards, and her frankness about sex and masturbation is still unusual. The writing is not quite as lyrical as the previous volume, but it is very readable and I look forward to reading about 20-something-year-old Maya.
“The waitresses, in a block, were the least interesting of the club’s inhabitants. They were for the most part dull married women, who moved among the colourful patrons like slugs among butterflies. The men showed no interest in them, leading me to believe that virtue is safest in a den of iniquity…I had no chance to show them how clever I was because wit is communicated by language and I hadn’t yet learned theirs.”
First published 1974 by Random House.
Source: Durdham Down Bookshop.
Transmetropolitan Vol. 0: Tales of Human Waste
by Warren Ellis and various artists
This is a collection of the columns written by the character Spider Jerusalem over the course of the Transmetropolitan series, each illustrated by a different comic-book artist. There are some big names, some less well known. Both the columns and the art are hit-and-miss, and this certainly isn’t a good starting point for anyone who hasn’t read any of the series, but it’s a nice addition for those who have. As such it comes with all the same caveats about extreme and graphic swearing, violence, sex and drugs – all of which are made with humour and are making clearly thought through points about society, but don’t come off as well without the backup of a storyline. This volume doesn’t give away the series ending but some other major plot points are revealed, so it’s probably best saved for last.
Published 2004 by Vertigo.
Source: Borrowed from Tim.