'Pride of Baghdad' - Graphic Novel Review

Pride of Baghdad
by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
2008 - Vertigo

Four lions in the Baghdad Zoo find themselves suddenly free to roam after bombing during the war with the U.S. breaks their cage open. Loosely based on lions freed in exactly this manner, but I doubt the real lions talked. And per Vaughan and Henrichon, lions are extremely hot-tempered and know no rule of law: just whoever's biggest and meanest wins. They fight over what to do when they're broken out of their cage - one says "freedom should be earned, not given." Another replies "there's another saying: you don't look a gift horse in the mouth, you eat it." They walk through the ruins of Baghdad without understanding it (but we do), and things go poorly for them.

The art is good, although it's more slick than inventive. The dialogue, casting indirect aspersions at the human race, is thoughtful, funny, and horrifying. Anyone thinking they should show the "talking lion comic book" to their kids should read it first: blood, guts, rape, and slaughter will probably convince you otherwise. The lions aren't terribly sympathetic characters with their emotional turbulence, unreliability, and violence - but it does seem like a fair portrayal of lions. Brutal from end to end, but a good read despite that.