Pride of Baghdad

Created by: Brian K. Vaughan, Niko Henrichon

Published by: DC/Vertigo

ISBN: 1401203140 (Amazon)

Pages: 136

Genre: Adventure

Pride of Baghdad

Sometimes, out of the blue, I’ll ask my fifteen-month-old daughter: “How does the lion go?” She will then muster up a metric horse-ton of ferocity and give the best little squeak of a Roar that she can manage. It’s pretty thoroughly entertaining. Or at least mildly entertaining. Or at least more entertaining than Pride of Baghdad.

It’s not even that there’s so much anything wrong with Brian K. Vaughan’s WE4. Really, the thing is just rather, well, slight. Shave off 75% of its page count and toss it in a handsome colour anthology of worthwhile comics shorts (maybe a less whimsical version of Flight*) and the story could have been wonderful. As it is though, Vaughan’s sparse story is not enough to stand alone in its hardcover place on the shelf. It doesn’t merit the publisher’s treatment.

Vaughan has two interesting things to say in the book. One (1!), through his use of lions as protagonists, we note that the nature of the beast is a ferocious and arbitrary one, both fickle and dangerous. And two (2!), the story isn’t about the lions.

Pride, as the play on terms in its title suggests, is about some lions in the capital of Iraq. This takes place in the early days of America’s second-millennium military extravaganza in Hussein’s country. The U.S. Air Force, in a show of great subtlety, is dropping bombs everywhere. All over the place. Even on the head of giraffes (good aim guys!). Predictably (if only because everything is being bombed), Baghdad’s zoo collects its fair share and animals go flying everywhere. Even animals without wings. Like lions.

So the lions beat feet and aimlessly wander, looking for food and a better life. They really find neither and the lesson turns out to be both trite and affecting. Simultaneously. I think this is where length and format hinder the work. Had it been a less self-involved effort, Vaughan’s moral could have been on point and well-received. Unfortunately, it makes too much of itself and by the time you arrive, you just kind of stand around looking at the wasteland of Baghdad and say to no one in particular, “Huh. Is that it? (No offense Baghdadians.)”

What else then? Uhm, nice art? I guess? Lion rape? A skinned donkey? Uh huh.

*note: actually, with the theme of the jets freeing the lions, it probably would have sat pretty comfortably in a volume of Flight.

 

 

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