Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan, Niko Henrichon and Todd Klein
Spoilers: I’m gonna talk about the end of this book in this blog post. That’s cool, most people I know won’t read it anyway.
This is a beautifully illustrated, incredibly gory story about four lions who live in the Baghdad zoo. Zill is the male, who was quite young when he was captured. Safa is an old lioness who spent most of her life in the wild and who embraces the easy food and the protection from violence and rape that she enjoys in the zoo. Noor hates her life in a cage and spends most of her time trying to convince the other animals to help her escape. Ali is Noor’s cub, young, born in the zoo and confused by the conflicting history he gets from the adults in his life. Their world is completely thrown into chaos when the Americans bomb Baghdad and the zoo is destroyed.
Now the worst part of the story is that it’s based on a true one.
Hungry and confused the four lions venture out into the city, looking for food and safety.
Their portrayal is an amazing combination of animal and human. Safa’s hesitation about the ethics of eating a dead human when they find a body and are desperately hungry is a beautiful moment. Their relationship with the other animals that they encounter blends animal instinct with surprising humanity. From their complex perspectives the horrors of war and environmental devastation are senseless and horrifying.
Don’t get me wrong. The animal world is violent, with one depiction of rape, constant violence between them and then the drive to hunt and kill but this seems unavoidable and reasonable compared to what the people do. The lions fight and kill to protect themselves and eat and survive while there’s no explanation at all for the tanks and bombs and machine guns.
By far the most devastating part is the end, when all the lions are killed by American troops. Zill was shot first. Safa tries to fight the army off, to give Noor and Ali a chance to escape but is torn apart by a machine gun. Noor and Ali are killed almost immediately afterwards.
The moment that I really felt was when Noor, after watching Safa get literally shredded, screams “Animals! You goddamn…” before she and her son are gunned down.
Like War Horse and Faithful Elephants, this is a horrible story about how humanity’s tendency to self destruct is harmful to everyone, not just the people involved.
I think that’s important.
Last movie I watched: Iron Man 3.
Last TV episode I watched: NEWSROOM IS AWESOME