The horrors and loss from the wars fought by man are always told from the perspective of man. However, during the 2003 bombing of Baghdad, a zoo was accidentally hit by some of the shells pounding the once beautiful city. Pride of Bagdhad tells the story of a small pride of lions attempting to survive on the streets and outskirts of the war torn capital of Iraq.
Brian K. Vaughan (of Y: The Last Man fame) has crafted an emotional, brutal, and unflinching portrayal of how war can affect wildlife and the environment. I’m very happy to say that he has accomplished this without sounding preachy…there is no political commentary on the effects that hitting oil wells have on the environment, nor is there commentary on the morals or purpose of war; the facts are represented with nothing more than beautifully drawn (and at times shocking) imagry.
The storyline is told almost entirely through the perspective of the lions. The pride struggles with the safety of their confinement vs. freedom without safety…however, the lions are not alone on the streets of Baghdad. Part of their struggle to survive involves avoiding the other animals who escaped from the zoo while still finding food to eat. Following the lions as they navigate through the concrete jungle of a major city (one of many metaphors strewn about the entire comic), the whole thing seems to take place over a short couple of days. Since the story is told from the pride’s perspective, we are invited into the thoughts that they have on human actions. While simplistic and straightforward in nature, the conversations amongst the pride about their current predicament will make you sit back and think about what it is that humans are trying to accomplish in the world, and if the collateral damage is worth it.
With a yellow/orange tinted art style, much of the purpose and message is hidden in the amazing illustrations by Niko Henrichon. Printed on semi-glossy paper, the frames seem to leap off the page. The lions are drawn with a coloured sketch-style, with light black lines somehow managing to fool your eyes into thinking they are looking at a furry lion.The environments are lush and complete, however the details and personality shown in the eyes of every animal are (for me) the highlight of this comic. There is enough expression in the faces of the pride for this comic to have been done without a single line of dialogue. While the interactions within the pride would not have been explored, the purpose and impact of the story would have been just as effective, if not more so.
Pride of Baghdad is a hauntingly beautiful look into the effects from the madness of humans, despite their ability to create great things. I wonder, what will we as a species accomplish in the future: continue to build, or destroy that which is already built?