You may remember the story at the dawn of the war in Iraq: A group of lions had escaped from the bombed-out Baghdad Zoo and were roaming the war-torn city streets. Sadly, they didn’t last long in the war zone as they were gunned down by American troops.
Those are the basics of the story. That’s all we know that officially happened. But in the graphic novel “Pride of Baghdad,” writer Brian K. Vaughan fleshes out his own, somewhat over-fictionalized idea of the lions did during their few days of freedom — but be warned this isn’t some cute “Lion King”-style story.
Sure, the lions talk with one another and other animals, but there isn’t any “Hakuna Matada” moments in “Pride of Baghdad.”
Instead, this is a story about illusions and bitter truths. It’s a battle of raw nature against human violence and insensitivity. In that sense, “Pride of Baghdad” seems to channel works such as “Watership Down” and “The Plague Dogs.”
With the family dynamics of a “pride” as the story’s background, Vaughan explores different views of freedom. Some of us see freedom as safety and comfort. To others it’s about living by your wits. And others believe it’s to be unhindered by any borders and rules.
Vaughan’s gritty story is countered by dynamic and vibrant art by Niko Henrichon. Though it’s still a comic with talking animals, his art roots the story in a surprisingly majestic environment.
In the end, the lions of Baghdad find what they sought — a simple reconnection with their base needs and that is ultimately what “Pride” explores: The push to keep your most basic needs satisfied.
And as a comic book fan, “Pride of Baghdad” fills my basic needs — the need for a thought-provoking story and lush art.
“PRIDE OF BAGHDAD”
Written by: Brian K. Vaughan
Art by: Niko Henrichon
Three-and-a-half stars out of four stars (A surprisingly gritty story of freedom and war)