What is it about?

Despite more than two decades of armed conflict, concurrent with what is arguably a new golden age of comics—the latter driven as much by developments in crowdfunding, digital publishing and platforms, and multibillion-dollar movie blockbusters as by hard-copy retail sales of monthly periodicals—there seem to be precious few examples of long-form sequential art about America’s Global War on Terror (GWOT). Still, if you know where to dig, there are some dazzling treasures to be discovered. Three potential “Great American Graphic War Novels” triangulate and illuminate the nuances, frustrations, and outcomes of twenty-first-century wars as seen through American goggles.

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Why is it important?

Each of these “Great American Graphic War Novels” interrogates and complicates the usual stereotypes of war fiction and movies. In place of SEAL teams and American snipers are imperfect humans pursuing unachievable objectives in implacable circumstances. In The White Donkey, two Marine buddies search for meaning in military service and instead find themselves permanently and fundamentally changed. In Battle Born: Lapus Lazuli, a would-be warrior starts out with a clear-cut mission but ends up facing a dilemma of vengeance. In Sheriff of Babylon, a police consultant attempts to impose American concepts of justice—or even rule of law—on a transactional political culture that is inscrutable to outsiders.

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This page is a summary of: In Search of the Twenty-First Century's "Great American Graphic War Novel", American Book Review, September 2022, Project Muse,
DOI: 10.1353/abr.2022.0089.
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