When I heard about this title coming out I was immediately interested; apart from it being by the great writer and creator of the award winning Y The Last Man comic book series, the story sounded provocative, and is based on a true story.
The real story is a quick and simple one to tell: with the invasion of Baghdad in 2003, one of the first places abandoned was the zoo and when the bombs and destruction hit, a lot of cages and pens were broken open. A pride of lions escaped and began walking around Baghdad until they were found by US soldiers who were so shocked they just opened fire before the lions could do anything. With the mind and pen of Brian K. Vaughn and the beautiful and detailed artwork of Niko Henrichon, this is the pride’s fictional story.
The pride is composed of an aging male, his mother, his mate, and his single cub. In this world the animals can talk to each other and Vaughn does a great job of capturing attitudes and characters with the different animals. The pride leave the zoo, after rescuing the cub from a hoard of baboons who were about to tear him apart, and travel the streets of Baghdad, looking in houses and palaces, searching for food. In one great palace they find a mighty statue of a lion and take spiritual comfort from its magnitude and the respect that humans give it. In this palace they also find a chained old lion who was a pet, presumably one of Hussein’s sons or family members. There is also a mighty bear, another pet, who has broken free and there is a great fight between the bear and the lions. As the inevitable demise of the pride approaches, their last view is of a beautiful sunset on the city of Baghdad and before the cub dies, he gets to see his one and only horizon.
A very sad story, and yet moving in the way the writing and art adds such emotion and feeling to these animals that one can’t help but feel they deserved so much better than their horrible end.
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Originally written on October 12th, 2006 ©Alex C. Telander.