Pride of Baghdad
by Brian K. Vaughan, Niko Henrichon (Vertigo, 2006)

A group of lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an American bombing raid on the capital city of Iraq in April 2003. They roamed for some time before finally being gunned down by American soldiers.

Those are the facts. Brian K. Vaughan makes the story real.

Pride of Baghdad is an anthropomorphic tale told from the lions' point of view. Rather The Lion King in its presentation (the very human expressions on the animals' faces, as illustrated beautifully by Niko Henrichon, will certainly remind you of the famed Disney animation), Pride does not suffer from any contractual obligation to provide a happy ending, nor does anyone burst into song.

It's impossible to know what went through the animals' minds at the time. Accustomed to zoo life, they were probably bewildered by their new freedom. And, with their natural hunting instincts blunted by years of captivity, they were likely starving. Surrounded by explosions and rubble and tanks, they were most definitely terrified.

Perhaps being shot in the end was a kindness.

Vaughan has done an amazing thing with this book. It is a fanciful representation, true enough, but it is also vivid, thoughtful, passionate and at times downright brutal. If lions thought the way humans do, this would be their narrative. And Henrichon cannot be commended enough for the expressiveness he brings to the story, with highly detailed pencils and colors that glow with life.

This book isn't intended for children's eyes, but anyone old enough to drive, vote, drink or carry a gun should read it.

review by
Tom Knapp

1 December 2007

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