My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Have I told you how much I love Pride? I fell in love with Brian K Vaughan after discovering Runaways (which I blogged about here) and first discovered Pride on a day when the rains opened and I sheltered in a library in Maidenhead.
And I discovered a very, very good book that moved me to tears and laughter and heartbreak all in one sitting.
The eponymous Pride of Baghdad (oh there are levels we can read that title at, so many levels) is Zill, lion of the Baghdad Zoo, and his lionesses Safa and Noor and her cub Ali. Their life changes forever when the sky erupts with bombs and naturally, inevitably, some of them fall on the zoo and free the animals inside. We follow the Pride on their exploration of Baghdad, through good times and the bad, through to a, well, a climax of intense proportions set up against the blood red evening sky.
This book is beautiful, and heartfelt, and something so very special. The artwork (Niko Henrichon, playing a blinder) is dynamic, bold and yet curiously lyrical all at the same time. Some of the big splash pages are full of poetic staging set against the most destructive of backgrounds. There’s a lot going on here and it’s worthwhile taking a moment or two to let the images sink in.
Naturally there’s an element of commentary on the nature of war and the invasion of Iraq but it’s one that I felt didn’t overshadow the book. The ending, which I won’t spoil here, is achingly painful and poignant to read and one that will – and should incite discussion. The main narrative itself has some very hard moments which are painful – and upsetting to read. There’s an implication of repeated rape at one point (over a one page spread) and the eventual antagonist in the book is a defiantly terrifying character. It’s vital to remember that a vast part of this book is allegorical in nature and can be read on so many levels.
I read this, whilst the rain pounded down outside in one of those viciously emphatic downpours that the UK is prone too, and I didn’t move for the entire afternoon. This book held me.
It still does.