War: The Human Cost, is a muscular 260 high quality stock pages of great comics from Paper Tiger. Cliodhna Lyons and Ivy, singer from band Axis of Arseholes, represent the Irish contribution, in a work that spans 19 countries.
The project has been several years in the making and is the result of Kickstarter contributions, and collaborations with Campaign Against the Arms Trade and creatives involved in the work of Amnesty International, War on Want and The Red Cross. It’s not light on big names too: Spain Rodriguez, Steve Bell, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Aleksandar Zograf and Sean Michael Wilson to name but a few. There’s also a CD, “War and Peace”, which boasts inclusions of Michael Franti and The Spearheads, Big Youth, Sly & Robbie, The Levellers….
Given the central polemic (67 creatives on anti-war opinion), anyone would expect the content to move towards arrogantly self-assured. I’m happy to report that any such dogmatic preaching is at it’s bare minimal. Debra Lyn-Williams and Peet Clack’s “War Wounds” shares the hidden narrative ofthe home consequences of military flashbacks, and is one of the many heavy-hitters in this book. Marcel Ruitjers explores the Bush-Nazi connection, a narrative often resigned to the slander of conspiracy theorist, and realises it with right-chord caricature pen proof. Other artists veer off in this direction with traditional cartoon analogy or fables, such as Peter Kuper, Latuff and Lee O Connor
Alejandro Alvarez delivers a relationship between reader and cast, communication and health, mind and power, in a story about Camp X-Ray. It’s one of those based upon real lives, as is Christopher Rainbow’s drawings of interviews with residents of Harmondsworth Detention Centre. This is a particular speciality of Sean Duffield. Together with Lawrence Elwick, he recounts the life of Palden Gyatso (in first person narrative), which acts as a useful tool to teach on the history of 20th century Tibet and the human rights movement there. Thirteen pages proceeded by a two page text introduction is a good example of how Duffield as editor creates unstated chapters in the book, on arms manufacture, detention, propaganda and international relations. His ‘Liberation in Liberia’ charting the women’s civil rights movement, is another on a par with the work of Joe Sacco.
Obligatory mention to Paul O Connell, best known for The Sound of Drowning and The Muppets Wicker Man. O’ Connell has four pieces in total. The fumetti (photo comic) style for which he’s known is employed in an excellent piece on the cold war, and a wonderfully written short visual essay, “Orwell on War”. There’s divergences too. The anachronistic Boys comic classic painted work right out of Middle class England is jarring ripping serenity. The images narrate a boys journey to war, with a pat on the head from the village shopkeeper and the gentleman recruiter.
I’m not going to get into the cd review. A job for another reviewer. In summary, the flaws I find with “War – The Human Cost” are much as you’d expect from me. It’s not likely to be stocked in most FPI or other comics stores due to either mobility problems in distribution or the small-mindedness on a store-owner’s part. For the same reason, it’s unlikely to win an Eagle Award (which it richly deserves to), because voters are likelier to cite Preacher as best new graphic novel. A digital download version would be a wonderful thing I think.
It’s the system, man.
War: The Human Cost is currently limited to 750 copies and retails p&p inclusive at £12 (UK), £15 (Eire) or £17.69 (Rest of World). Make your decision to buy it soon. £1 from every sale goes towards Campaign Against the Arms Trade