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Pride of Baghdad

Talking animal comics appear to be making a quality comeback. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's WE3 adopted a pseudo-scientific justification for its four-legged protagonists' ability to verbalise, whereas Brian K Vaughn and Niko Henrichon provide a more traditional explanation: they just do.

Based on the true story of four lions who escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during the Iraq invasion, Pride of Baghdad features Vaughn's distinctive humour ("You don't look a gift horse in the mouth ... you eat him") and strong, sympathetic - but never sentimental - characterisation. Henrichon's expressions are readable while still being true to their real life animal forms: these may be talking animals, but they're not cartoons. And the double-page spreads are spectacular without being ostentatious.

I really like that in the last couple of decades the colouring in comics has become so much more sophisticated - not just in their ability to duplicate a greater range of hues, but in the artists' restraint in taking advantage of the technological enhancements. In this book, the palette is limited to earth and desert ochres, flame and fire, broken only by one detour into the cool azure of an indoor setting.

Certainly there's political commentary on the reasons for the invasion, but it's overt in only one scene. And while there are allegorical elements to the pride's plight, these are understated: mainly you're just caught up in the lions' situation as they attempt to reconcile freedom and slavery while tossed about by events that have nothing to do with them, and which are much, much more vast than they are.

While I didn't know what happened to the real lions, it was obvious there was only one way this story could end, and by the time it does, you've gotten to know, and care for, this family.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 17, 2006 12:30 AM.

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