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Monday, November 19, 2007

"Shooting War" by Anthony Lappé + Dan Goldman

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Read An Excerpt HERE
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Mention comic books and most people probably think of superheroes—men or women in tights saving the world against evil supervillains—kiddie stuff right. Well comic books have come a long way since the advent of Superman, Batman or Spider-Man and “Shooting War” could be the book that helps comics and graphic novels to become recognized as a serious form of literature. After all, there’s no spandex, super powers or planet-devouring aliens in the pages of “Shooting War”. There is profanity, sex, nudity and graphic violence, but being “Not Suitable for Children Under the Age of 17” doesn’t automatically make something more adult-like. What does are the hot-button issues at hand here including the Iraq War, America’s foreign policy, the problems with network news, the oil crisis, and a glimpse at the future of blogging. So even though the graphic novel is described as a ‘political satire’, is set in the near future (Year 2011), and is rife with sly humor, “Shooting War” is a realistic look at topics relevant today.

Basically, “Shooting War” stars Jimmy Burns, a 25-year-old hipster who goes from being an indie left-wing video-blogger to a war correspondent for Global Television, an around-the-clock news network on terror coverage. Embedded in the middle of Iraq, Jimmy learns the hard way just how horrifying the war is and how difficult it is to make a difference, especially when you’re being manipulated by a terrorist organization known as Sword of Mohammed, your own news network, and the military. When events escalate spurred by a nuclear attack, Jimmy Burns must make a decision, one that could alter the course of American history…if he manages to get out alive that is…

For the graphic novel/comic book format, artwork is just as important as the written word in conveying a story and fortunately in the case of “Shooting War”, both areas are well-represented. Writer/producer Anthony Lappé—executive editor of
GNN.tv (the Guerrilla News Network), co-author of True Lies, producer of Showtime’s award-winning Iraq documentary Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge and contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, MTV News, Fuse, Air America, Details, Vice, Salon.com, etc.—is the writer & mastermind behind “Shooting War” and what he brings to the book are informative knowledge of the war, Middle East politics & media coverage; and a hip, edgy writing style that should appeal to the Generation Y readers with its fashionable lingo and pop culture references—Tom Cruise breaking up with Mary Kate Olsen; John McCain as president; KFC sued for selling cloned meat; McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, etc., franchised in Baghdad and Dan Rather making an appearance in an entertaining supporting role. Additionally, Mr. Lappé comes up with some amusing near-future scenarios such as a terrorist-simulating videogame (Infidel Massacre: Los Angeles), American battlefield robots created with PS4 technology and remote-controlled by ‘gamers’, and terrorists funded by call centers. Then again, these concepts might be much closer to the truth than one might think.

Providing the visual side of the book is writer/artist
Dan Goldman—a founding member of ACT-I-VATE; author of the Craigslist serial “KELLY”, Everyman: Be the People and an upcoming nonfiction project with Michael Crowley—whose artwork is a ‘combination of photography, vector illustration and digital painting’. Admittedly, the digital paintings are a bit cartoonish which sort of desensitizes the more explicit subject matter, but as a whole the illustrations perfectly complement the story, especially when it comes to the integration of pictures and the accurate replication of brand name logos, CNN/Global News television reports, magazine covers (New York Post), New York Magazine articles, Jimmy’s Burn Baby Burn v-blog, flickr and YouTube, all of which adds to the book’s realism and relevance.

Originally, the 2007 Eisner Award-nominated “Shooting War” was a serialized web comic that appeared on smithmag.net before it was purchased by Grand Central Publishing (North America) and Weidenfeld & Nicolson (UK) for publication as a hardcover graphic novel. Since the graphic novel was to feature over 110 pages of new content, I went back and read the web-comic version (Click HERE for the full, unedited web comic) after finishing the hardcover, and I’m happy to say that the additions made to the original definitely improved the story without losing any of its significance. In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much “Shooting War” impressed me overall and how much I enjoyed reading the graphic novel, not just in relation to the other comics that I’ve read this year, but compared to anything that I’ve read in 2007. After all, looking past the packaging and the format, what you have in “Shooting War” is something much more than just a simple graphic novel. For not only is “Shooting War” an intelligent, provocative & witty story that could help establish a new precedence for comic book mainstream acceptance, more importantly, it is a timely reminder of current affairs that everyone should be aware of…

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