Review: Pride of Baghdad
Written by Brian K Vaughn with Art by Niko Henrichon
Published by Vertigo
In 2003, when the Iraq War started, four lions escaped from the wreckage of the Baghdad Zoo. Starving and released into a city that was covered in destruction, they wandered the streets. Pride of Baghdad is these lions’ story, told from their perspective. More than this, it is a work that is now worth revisiting.
As is usually the case with Brian K Vaughn’s scripts (Saga, Ex Machina, Y The Last Man), Pride of Baghdad is witty, insightful, and manages to comment on political issues without ever becoming clichéd. Each of the lions represents a different point of view about the war, understanding it differently and having unique ways of adapting to the new order that has been forced upon them. While much could be written about Vaughn’s efforts, it would be remiss to overlook artist Niko Henrichon’s stunning artwork on Pride of Baghdad, which gives the work so much of its resonance.
When discussing why he opted to write Pride of Baghdad as a single graphic novel rather than a longer, serialised story, Vaughn told Comic Book Resources, “I wanted readers to experience the suddenness with which these animals’ lives were changed and that worked much better in a story that can be read in one sitting.”
Reading the story in this way gives Pride of Bagdad’s story devastating impact, and the work stands alongside Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, amongst the best ever use of the medium. With Vertigo’s 25th anniversary relaunch taking place this year, the book also serves as a reminder of how great that creator-owned imprint can be.
Pride of Bagdad is a tale about the casualties of war, human and animal. In times when Australia’s government is actively exploring our potential military role, its themes remain as poignant as they were when it was first released.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor