Saturday, February 09, 2008

Iraq: Operation Corporate Takeover - A Review Part 1 of 2

Lee: Back in December, Jim and I posted the monthly look ahead for independent books. One of our selections was Iraq: Operation Corporate Takeover. The exact post was:

By Sean Michael Wilson & Lee O'Connor Published by BOYCHILD PRODUCTIONS
An engaging documentary comic book made with campaigning charity War On Want. In the vein of work by Joe Sacco or Marjane Satrapi, Iraq: Operation Corporate Takeover exposes covert corporate goals in the Iraq War through the personal story of one young Iraqi man. 76 pages. (6x9)Previews at
Lee: WOW. This book just reaks of anti-war preachyness. Not that there’s anything wrong with preachyness, but this will have to work really hard to tell a story and not just be a big preachy mess.

Jim: Actual it reeks of someone who has a political viewpoint that is unafraid to say it. Still (and I political speaking would be interested to hear what he has to say) as a comic fan this sounds a tad boring. It will be a challenge to make this a strong comic.

Now, I didn’t find the comments harsh but Sean Michael Wilson took exception to what we said and contacted us. And, in order to be fair we agreed to read the book and post a review. Jim and I enjoy nothing more than being proven wrong and finding good comic books in the process.

Jim: To start, this book needs to be reviewed on two levels. First as a graphic novel and second as a political statement. And, be advised this book is very much a political statement supported by a group that I have limited knowledge about (War on Want).

I also feel it’s important to know the reviewer’s prejudices in this matter. I was against the Iraq War from the jump and feel that the US has been bankrupting the country. This was a war that never should have been waged and the ostensible reasons for the war were a sham as it was always about oil.

Lee: I couldn’t agree more. Because of the message, this isn’t typical comic book entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entertaining but there is also a message that is very strongly presented. And, it’s impossible to separate one from the other.

As for my view on the war, I don’t believe we should have gone there. But, now that we are there I am not sure we can leave. It’s a wonderful catch-22.

Jim: Let’s start with an easier, comic book review. One remarks in reviewing this as an unread preview pick were “.. as a comic fan this sounds a tad boring. It will be a challenge to make this a strong comic.”

Wow, was I wrong as a comic fan. It maybe the subject matter is so near and dear to my heart that it became an easy read, but as a graphic novel it read really well and the artwork conveyed the story very well. We are given a point of view character, Nazem. Nazem is an Iraq citizen who was in England for school and has been away for four years and is coming home to a devastated country. We see with his eyes what has occurred in his country. The abuses by such companies as Bechtel, Halliburton and the Private Military and Security Companies and the impact it has had on the country. You feel his outrage and cheer him on as he starts a blog to get the word out to the world.

The artwork is really well done, lots of detail, good ability to convey motion and laid out extraordinarily well given this is a talking head book for the most part. When given the chance to convey action scenes again it is done well. Lee O’Connor is certainly an artist I would not mind seeing more work from over the years.

Lee: I couldn’t agree more. This is a really, really well done graphic novel. The characters tend to be somewhat cardboard-ish but that is to be expected. They are tools to disseminate information and a great deal of characterization isn’t needed. There is enough to make you sympathize with them which is perfect for this book. The story moves quickly from scene to scene and manages to entertain as well as inform at the same time.

The art is outstanding. Based upon the hype, I assumed this would be fanboy junk but it is very far removed from that. Lee O’Conner is obviously a professional and it shows. The facial expressions are good, the perspective is good, the layouts are good, overall, it’s just good.

It’s easy to review books that aren’t good or have flaws, it’s not so easy to review really good books. And, this book easily achieves what it sets out to do. In fact, it does a masterful job of doing so. But, there was another aspect of this book that must be discussed.

As a comic book, I give it an: A.
It was well executed. Beautifully illustrated. It’s hard to argue with that.

Jim: I gave it a B. The insertion of the Israel/Palestine issue and other heavy handed moments hurt the overall flow of the story.

But, there’s still the whole political nature of the book to be discussed, and we can do that tomorrow.

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