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Pride of Baghdad

Pride of Baghdad

4.6 10
by Brian K. Vaughan, Niko Henrichon (Illustrator)

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This exceptional graphic novel about four lions who are freed from the Baghdad Zoo questions the nature of freedom. Can it be achieved without being earned? What is the price?


This exceptional graphic novel about four lions who are freed from the Baghdad Zoo questions the nature of freedom. Can it be achieved without being earned? What is the price?

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Jennifer Feigelman
In the spring of 2003, as a bomb raid ripped through Baghdad, the Baghdad Zoo is hit and a pride of four lions—two females, Safa and Noor; a male, Zill; and a cub, Ali—is freed. With no cage and no keepers, the lions fend for themselves in the war-ravaged city. Having been kept in the zoo, the lions had always dreamed of freedom; once outside, they see the true horror in the world. This truly exceptional graphic novel questions the war in the Middle East, and what freedom really is. The dynamics that Vaughan creates between the two females of the pride are outstanding, and truly reflect how a family could act in this scenario. Henrichon's art is simply amazing; each page transports the reader to each scene, making for a strong visceral connection between the reader and the story. The anthropomorphized lions are exquisitely developed and evocative characters who will haunt the reader. This is a book to be read on many levels, and it should appeal to a wide range of readers. Designated by the publisher as a book for older readers, there are depictions of violent scenes, though set in the context of war and the fight for survival. This is one of the most important books of 2006; every library should own a copy.
Library Journal
During an American bombing raid in 2003, four lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo. That true story is the basis for this excellent fable by Vaughan (Ex Machina; Runaways) and Henrichon in which the animals can talk to one another and discuss the relative merits of captivity and life in the wild. After they're unexpectedly freed, Zill, the alpha male; his one-eyed ex-lover, Safa; his current lover, Noor; and Noor's cub, Ali, must fend for themselves in an unfamiliar land: the ruined city. They discover dangers both man-made and—despite Noor's insistence that animals can rise above their baser natures—among their own kind. This graphic novel works as an adventure story; a meditation on the pursuit, the problems, and the meaning of freedom; and a thoughtful allegory about the war in Iraq, with every scene having a deeper subtext. Vaughan's lions, with distinctive and well-rounded personalities, inspire sympathy; Henrichon's animals are expertly rendered, and his coloring is lush (with some gore in the battle scenes). This is an important work, strongly recommended for all adult collections.
—Steve Raiteri
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
A heartbreaking look at what it's like to live in a war zone. Inspired by true events, this story tells of four lions that escape from the Baghdad Zoo during a bombing raid in 2003 and encounter other animals that offer unique perspectives, such as a tortoise that survived World War I. They begin to question the nature of freedom. Can it be achieved without being earned? What is its price? What do the lions owe the zookeepers who took care of them at the cost of keeping them in captivity? Where should they go? What should they eat? The four lions soon realize that a desert city is nothing like the grassy savannas of their memories. Their experiences mirror those of the Iraqi citizens displaced by the conflict. The book succeeds as a graphic novel and as an account of the current crisis. Henrichon's full palette emphasizes browns and grays that evoke the sands of the country, while his long brushstrokes and careful attention to detail reflect the precise and minimalist dialogue that Vaughan uses. An allegorical tale with compelling and believable characters, Baghdad makes it clear that without self-determination, there can be no freedom
—Erin DenningtonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

DC Comics
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.81(w) x 10.47(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

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Pride of Baghdad 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is a tradition in literature of using talking animals, usually the domain of children's stories and sugary animated movies, to portray serious political and social issues in the big adult world. Animal Farm is the progenitor of this genre, with Art Spiegelman's Maus the contemporary example. Pride of Baghdad is an impressive and moving entry into this tradition. Based on a real-world incident, the inadvertent freeing of four lions from Baghdad Zoo by an American aerial bombardment, Pride of Baghdad tells the story of the anthropomorphic lions' travels through a ghostly Baghdad, empty of almost all humans but populated by scattered, haunted animals. The lions, monkeys, turtles and bears present a microcosm of the society of conflict that exists in Iraq. Instead of rehashing the chaos of Iraq as an extended tribal and religious war, writer Brian Vaughan and artist Niko Henrichon portray something deeper. For them, the invasion didn't just unleash sectarian conflicts suppressed by Saddam Hussein for decades. Like an uncapped oil well, darker emotions of hate, fear, greed and authoritarianism comes spewing out into the open with the destruction of the zoo's gates. Regardless of creed or tribe, the most basic evils of human nature are the tragedy of Iraq, crossing all cultural boundaries. The verbal pun on 'pride' denotes the lions' role. As they roam the city, searching for food and shelter, they discuss their newfound freedom and what it means. For the lions, pride leads to sadness. With a reduced role in the brutal world around them, the lions suffer attacks and insults, pulling themselves through by sheer force of character until the climactic conflict with an American infantry patrol. Henrichon's artwork perfectly suits the story, combining a detailed portrayal of the Iraqi landscape with animals that display human-like movements and expressions. The combination of realistic detail and cartoonish characters work well to make a controversial subject accessible, much in the tradition of Mike Golden's work for Marvel Comics in The 'Nam series. The four lions (cynical old Safa, idealist Noor, romantic Zill and irrepressible cub Ali) discuss and emote like humans, while still displaying very lion-like behavior and instincts. 'You don't look a gift horse in the mouth...you eat him,' Zill proclaims during one debate. Pride of Baghdad is a fresh voice in the Iraq debate. Vaughan and Henrichon point out that the real tragedy of the conflict is that there is a tragedy at all, and that there will be no winners when the higher human qualities are marginalized for greed and control. Like Orwell realized, people have a hard time facing a simple truth if it is a brutal one. Sometimes a talking lion is needed to point out that something is wrong in his kingdom.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dramatic, painful, dark, and intense. Definitely not for everyone, but definitely great.
Sean_From_OHIO More than 1 year ago
Absolutely fantastic!! Brian K. Vaughan is the best writer in comics. Of this, I’m sure. I have loved almost everything he’s written and was happy to finally get a chance to read this. He has an amazing way of humanizing so many different types of characters. The plot here, based on a true story, is simple and pure: survival. He takes it so far past that. Just an amazing story. The art was very good. Overall a fantastic must read!
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