Saturday, February 5, 2011

War is Boring

Chad, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, and East Timor might not be ideal travel spots for many but David Axe is a "war tourist" and journalist who is working to depict the victims and conditions from world conflicts. He publishes his work in a number of forums, including the War is Boring blog, columns at World Politics Review, and Wired's Danger Room. He does not have an official page, but he has served as a war correspondent for numerous outlets, including C-Span and BBC Radio, and his bio can be found by scrolling down this info page.

War is Boring gives us short chapters on his visits to these global hot spots, interspersed with stories from the US, with Axe trying to maintain personal relationships with his friends and family while being absent for long periods of time. We get snapshots of each place, not the extended or multiple viewpoints found in Joe Sacco's work, for example. The effect is a series of vignettes that tend to run together as well as a view into Axe's seemingly pathological and self-destructive tendencies to place himself in danger. I got as small sense of political situations but a larger sense of the personality of a war correspondent. Conveying such a personal portrait in the context of these global conflicts makes for an interesting, provocative juxtaposition.

War is Boring
is the combined effort of two political activists. David Axe's views about his work here are explored in this interview with Noah Shacthman. Matt Bors, who provided the art, is a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist who creates the webcomic Idiot Box and comments on his work via his blog. His style is realistic with a cartoon edge, and he is adept at capturing people's emotions through facial expressions. This interview with Tom Spurgeon casts more light on Bors's work on this book and beyond.

Reviews of this graphic memoir have been mostly positive, pointing out the effectiveness of the personal spin on world issues. Publishers Weekly (free registration needed to access reviews) noted that the book "suffers a bit from Axe's ambivalence toward his calling, but his honesty sets it apart from other war narratives." Kirkus Reviews called it "powerful" and "elliptical," highlighting the questions it raised about whether war is a constant state of humanity. Brett Schenker called it a "great read."

A video preview and more information about the book and creators can be found here from the publisher New American Library.

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