An Ungodly Army
March 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
This last Saturday Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn celebrated the release of the non-fiction graphic novel Army of God: Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa by David Axe and illustrated by Tim Hamilton. The event was laid back, and the shop itself is great; they make good use of their somewhat limited square footage, featuring a a wide variety of books, with a healthy chunk of the trades coming from off the beaten path.
If you haven’t heard of Joseph Kony, he’s a bad man, wanted for war crimes, who leads a cult of a guerilla army through the jungles of Central Africa, raiding and pillaging in the name of God. First serialized in Cartoon Movement, Army of God covers the conflict in a series of vignettes that depict Kony’s victims and the various government and NGO efforts to stop him. It’s not a happy book.
Tim Hamilton’s art is breathtaking, and his inks call to mind the dark corners of the Congo that Joseph Conrad hints at in Heart of Darkness, but Axe’s writing can sometimes feel too glib. We learn nothing about a girl named Patricia other than that her life sucks. We learn nothing about a priest except that he gets screwed.
The blame lies less with David Axe than with the limits of the genre and venue; he doesn’t have the space to depict full characters. The pieces focusing on events work better, and the comic form adds an expressive quality that news reporting doesn’t usually offer. And Axe’s reporting is better than that of other non-fiction comics artists. Though perhaps better known, the works of Guy Delise and Joe Sacco flaunt an irresponsibility in the service of political commentary. David Axe sticks closer to the facts, letting the story speak.
Army of God is an intriguing work that can be moving and can leave the reader frustrated with the international communities’ inability to get rid of Kony. It’s worth a look, and it will be interesting to see what David Axe does next.
Be sure to check out my horror webcomic MetaMorphosis!