Written By David Axe
Illustrated By Steve Olexa
NBM Publishing Co., 2006
First-hand accounts of historical events – like Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Joe Sacco’s Palestine and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis – established comics as a viable art form capable of addressing complicated issues with genuine insight and scholarly merit. In light of this, War Fix (written by David Axe and illustrated by Steve Olexa) comes in as a disappointment.
Little David grew up fixated on the televised broadcasts of the Persian Gulf War. Twelve years later, as a young journalist covering local government in a nameless town in the United States, he asks his editor to send him to Iraq to cover the upcoming elections. After getting the okay (and dodging a flowerpot flung at him by his enraged girlfriend), David travels to the other side of the world to get his “fix.” As an embedded journalist, he dons an expensive flak jacket and camera and wades in among disillusioned U.S. soldiers, bombings and fellow war correspondents, all in a seemingly endless quagmire.
Lacking much historical context for the war, penetrating journalistic inquiries or psychological probing, David sleepwalks through the story as despair and carnage rampage in the periphery. He travels from Baghdad across the Green Zone into Balad to Anaconda and back to Baghdad in a string of pointless scenes. He chats with independent contractors, exchanges awkward pleasantries with U.S. military officers and befriends a BBC reporter whom doctors diagnose as being “addicted to war.”
This book offers nothing more informative than what a casual reader could get from a daily newspaper. Even David’s plentiful visions of war are cliché, with stereotypical Iraqi women mourning over their loved ones’ tattered bodies and exploding cars straight out of last summer’s action blockbuster.
Steve Olexa illustrates destruction in gray washes and generous amounts of spot tones in dynamic manga-style. Yet in many scenes, Olexa’s use of extreme camera angles and slick design renders the sentiment vacuous. The numerous double-page spreads and free-flowing layout make for difficult reading, dulling the edge the book aspires to.
“God, I’m so bored,” David utters while being driven in a truck, echoing my exact thoughts. While publishing a graphic novel on the ongoing Iraq war is commendable, the work is disappointingly superficial. If you want your “fix,” just borrow it from the library.