I get mailed a lot of books here at The Huffington Post. Most of them are historical biographies or Bush-is-bad books that I don't have the stomach to read -- so I was positively giddy when a graphic novel came across my desk. I'm usually bored movies or books about war, so this is high praise coming from me:
Shooting War by Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman is a clever book envisioning the world in 2011 -- and it's not any better. President McCain is still occupying Iraq, a mushroom cloud just rose over India and the network news is as news-less as ever. Enter 25-year-old Jimmy Burns, a 25-year-old New York City hipster with bad facial hair and a porn habit, who prompts the questions: what is journalism and what is journalist?
While filming a spot on eminent domain in Brooklyn for his Burn Baby Burn video-blog, a Starbucks explodes behind Jimmy -- a terrorist attack uploaded online instantly. The heartless and monolithic Global News (which could be Fox, MSNBC or any other news channel) picks up the footage and then hands Jimmy a job: go film Iraq as an embed.
Overnight, Jimmy Burns is a new-media sensation: a New York magazine writer wants to both profile and sleep with him and Dan Rather wants to buy him a frappuccino. But Jimmy's in over his head.
The military doesn't trust him, his Iraqi producer/translator doesn't respect him and he soon becomes the puppet of not only his network news mother ship, but pissed off Arabs who -- for lack of a better word -- hijack his video blog's live feed.
At least Jimmy's got his Burn Baby Burn blog, where he tells the real story of what's going down, like this:
Being a war correspondent eats away at your soul. It happens slowly.
First, the guns, the bombs and the explosions are exiting. Even the death is a rush. You dodged it. You've tricked the reaper. You must be special. You've never felt more alive...
Then the carnage bleeds all the way into your waking hours. You see it on the blank walls, in our food, in your reflection in the mirror. Doctors call it PTSD -- post-traumatic stress disorder. I call it being human. If this shit doesn't fuck you up, you should see a doctor, because you're a sociopath."
As much a statement about the television media than a statement about the war, I'd say Shooting War is dystopian but its tough-in-cheek commentary often mirrors reality closely. The dystopia, in other words, is now. And the graphic novel medium, which has beautifully handled social justice issues from Art Spiegelman's Maus to Alison Bechdel's Fun Home to Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, is perfect to tell that story.
The comic can be viewed online in its entirety here -- but I say you should support two kick-ass writers and buy yourself the hardcover book that'll make you look smart if you put it on your coffee table. And then check out A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, a work-in-progress graphic novel by Josh Neufeld, which can be found online here.
You read Maus in high school... it's time to expand your graphic novel horizons!