Johnny Jihad
by Ray Inzana
(NBM, 2003)

If you like dark, depressing tales that could easily be modern-day nonfiction, then Johnny Jihad, a graphic novel by writer/artist Ryan Inzana, will be a must-have for your collection. This story blends elements of John Walker Lindh (the American Taliban captured in Afghanistan in the months after 9/11/01), the Columbine kids, Islamic terrorists and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Main character John Sendel begins the story the way he ends it -- with hate, loathing, violence and death. He wants to explain to you, the reader, why he is the way he is, why he has ended up where he has. He explains growing up with an abusive alcoholic father and drug-using mother. John shows how Muslim extremists took him under their wings and provided a future vision. Under their tutelage, he experiences his first human kill. When caught by the CIA, he is sent to Afghanistan to be a spy. While there, he even meets the infamous Bin Laden. In the end, his violent past catches up with him.

After reading Johnny Jihad, a reader open to this story might feel that the world is full of evil. There is no hope. All people (Americans and Muslims alike) are corrupt evildoers who should blow each other up. There should be no surprise that Johnny ended up as he did and it certainly wasn't his fault.

I respectfully disagree. I would like to believe that the people of the world are mostly good. I believe that people are pretty much responsible for their own actions or reactions to what others do. I feel that the hate between Muslims and the rest of the world is based on a lot of fear and misunderstanding, perpetuated by a minority on both sides. Most people, I'm sure, would choose peace over death and chaos.

Despite my misgivings about this work as a whole, Ryan's work does have merit. The promo material describes the artwork as "raw." If I had not seen other work of Ryan's, I would describe it as amateurish. Knowing better, however, I can see how the rough drawings help invoke the mood of depressing reality.

My fear with Johnny Jihad is that if this graphic novel describes reality, it is a reality for a very, very small group of individuals. I could see people who are emotionally vulnerable reading this as true life and deciding that they want to follow a similar path of self- and world-destruction. Hopefully, I'm wrong, and Ryan Inzana's story will be more of a wake-up call to issues that need to be positively addressed instead of ignored. Terrorism, regardless of your ethnicity and nationality, is not an answer to any problem.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 22 November 2003

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