Worthy of a place on the shelf next to Safe Area Gorazde, The Fixer, and Palestine. In just a few years, Sacco has created a...

WAR’S END

PROFILES FROM BOSNIA 1995-96

Two stories of unusual mirth from Europe’s heart of darkness.

Sacco, who spent a lot of 1995 and 1996 in Bosnia as the war was winding down, turned his experiences into the gripping graphic novel Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia: 1992–1995 (2002). This slimmer work takes a pair of stories from the same period that didn’t fit into Gorazde’s narrative arc; far from seeming like leftovers, they create a perfectly matched diptych, though the images are not always the prettiest. In the first, “Christmas with Karadzic,” Sacco and a pair of journalist buddies go careening through the slush of a Bosnian winter to the town of Pale, where they have heard that Bosnian Serb president and black-hearted war criminal Karadzic is going to celebrate Christmas mass. It seems a perfect opportunity: Sacco can look into the face of evil, and his friend Kasey (a frenetic freelancer, “The King of Strings”) can get another story and another paycheck. But the actual event is a bit of letdown. Karadzic seems like just another politician, and they have to drive all over to find good audio of locals firing AK-47s into the air in celebration. This tale’s jauntiness is perfectly complemented by the mournful madness of “Soba!” Paying tribute to the eponymous Bosnian soldier/painter who became a media darling with his blend of haunted vet’s dolorousness and punk rock aggression, Sacco is as usual the fellow quietly listening in the midst of the maelstrom. He hangs in clubs until dawn with Sarajevans angrily celebrating the end of the conflict but not sure what they’re to do in the shattered aftermath. This is not a book about war, but rather about how people live with themselves in what passes for the peace that follows.

Worthy of a place on the shelf next to Safe Area Gorazde, The Fixer, and Palestine. In just a few years, Sacco has created a body of work that includes some of the most important and relevant graphic novels of our time.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-896597-92-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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While never preaching, this volume makes a forceful case for creative license and personal liberty, as the artist discovers...

SHENZHEN

A TRAVELOGUE FROM CHINA

A sharp eye for detail, self-deprecating humor and subtle, shadowy drawings highlight this engaging, ambitious graphic narrative.

Though “graphic novel” has become the catch-all category for book-length comics aimed at adults, the genre continues to extend itself, encompassing everything from graphic fantasy to graphic memoir and diary to what Delisle (Pyongyang: A Journey to North Korea, 2005) here terms a graphic “travelogue.” The artist makes no attempt to convince the reader to visit the Chinese city from which he couldn’t wait to escape. As a Canadian native now based in France, Delisle is no stranger to cultural dislocation, yet he wasn’t prepared for the strangeness and isolation he would feel when he traveled to China to direct a team of animators on a TV series. Within the workplace, the hotel and the restaurants he stumbles upon (where he proves far more open-minded and adventurous than many readers would be), Delisle runs into so many barriers that he ends up exploring is his own psychological state here. As he attempts to place his experience amid the industrial, impersonal Shenzhen within Dante’s circles of hell, he underscores the value of the freedom he ultimately enjoys against the contrast of a city sealed by an electric fence, with armed guards in watchtowers. Even the techniques of animation become lost in translation, with standards slipping amid the crunch of deadlines, and no one seeming to care. The artist himself questions the value of sharing what he experienced during his stay in China, yet the Kafkaesque drawings that accompany his frequently droll narration are their own reward. Shenzhen may not be a nice place to live, but it’s a provocative city to visit—in graphic form, at least.

While never preaching, this volume makes a forceful case for creative license and personal liberty, as the artist discovers that there’s no place like home.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 1-894937-79-1

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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