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Pride of Baghdad

by Brian K. Vaughan; Niko Henrichon

Virgil’s Aeneid famously sang of arms and the man. Pride of Baghdad, a collaboration between California author Brian K. Vaughan and Quebec City illustrator Niko Henrichon, sings just as passionately of arms and the mane.

The set-up is simple: in 2003, four lions (a “pride”) escaped the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid. Vaughan, the award-winning author of Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina, takes this true story and reconstructs it from the lions’ point of view.

Poetic moments, both beautiful and horrific, abound in Vaughan’s tightly scripted, credible journey. A naturalized cub mistakes a bomb’s fiery detonation for the sight he has only ever heard described in legends: a horizon. “Are we dead?” asks one lion after the walls of the zoo fall. “No … we’re free,” comes the answer.

Henrichon is clearly a meticulous researcher. His illustrations establish the war-torn environment with tragic majesty and create a sense of innocent awe by filtering the perspective through the confused eyes of the feline wanderers.
Individual readers will see what they want in Baghdad’s shell-shredded streets: obvious political and social commentary, an allegory on freedom, storytelling that is anti-Disney, or even survivalist horror. The fact that this compelling and truly moving graphic novel can be all of these things at once is perhaps its greatest point of pride.