I’ve been on a bit of a review kick lately. Hopefully that’s not too boring.
Brian K. Vaughn is one of the strongest graphic writers out there. You may or may not have heard of him, most of his bigger stuff is off-major label (as in not Marvel or DC, and not being developed into million-dollar movies). He’s written some off-the-line stuff for Marvel and DC too in the past, but his best stuff is Y the Last Man and Ex Machina. He likes his own stories, and that’s where he thrives.
But enough about the writer. Let’s look at the book. Based on a weird story from 2003, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad zoo, and apparently roamed around the broken city, starved and dehydrated, until US troops shot them. In Pride of Baghdad, the animals can all talk to each other, which gets hilarious in a hurry. Its not just the lions, but the monkeys, antelope, giraffes, bears, all of them. They can all talk to each other. The pre-bombing talk of revolution and alliances between lions and antelopes alone is worth checking out.
The lions are the focal point, and they all get personalities that feel all too human. Ali is the over-curious cub, which can’t help but draw comparisons to the Lion King. In many ways I feel like Vaughn embraced this and didn’t shy from it. A decision that payed off. Safa is the old lioness, scarred and past her prime but still capable. Zill is the male, somewhat dopey and more or less the comic relief in the story. Noor is the younger lioness, equal parts naivete, quick-temper, and idealism. The interaction among the pack is surprisingly human, anthropomorphized into classic behavioral tropes, yet still spun around real lion behavior. Sound weird? It is a little, but after a while it works. Vaughn’s strength is he creates compelling characters, whether its a long series or a short, one-shot approach, and the Pride of Baghdad is no exception.
I highly recommend checking this one out. It’s a bit dated (2006) but the art is still strong and the story is top-notch. It’s funny, bleak, cute, scary, all in the same breath. And the small piece of it pulled from real-life events gives it a tragic, weirdly authentic feel for a story about talking animals.
Since I’ve been a pet owner, I find myself more attuned to the animal-based comics. If you read Pride of Baghdad, and you enjoy it (Which you should. Because I’m telling you to) check out WE3 by Grant Morrison, which is way more terrifying and tragic but still kind of adorable.
I give this one 4-out-of-5 paws up. The other one…a bear ate it.