JournalismBook | Joe Sacco By Phil Guie
Drawn to the suffering of others.
Joe Sacco's latest, Journalism, is a collection of previously-published shorter works, which like his best-known graphic novels shine a light on places where war and other events have had a profound effect. Many of these cartoons are set during times of armed conflict: "Chechen War, Chechen Women," for example, is about refugees living in tent cities who fled the civil war in Chechnya, but who are being pressured to go back despite the ongoing violence there. Sacco aims for objectivity as much as any good reporter, and comics such as "The Unwanted," which centers on a growing crisis in Malta due to thousands of Africans washing ashore and seeking asylum, are respectful of both sides of the argument. But the author's sympathies are generally with the underdogs. Hence, "The Underground War in Gaza" is essentially a case of "he said, she said," that leans heavily in favor of Palestinians under siege. Similarly, "Trauma on Loan," about Iraqi civilians arrested and tortured by American military without being charged with any crime, is little concerned with the government's side of things. Journalism depicts its share of grisly moments based on interviewees' first-hand accounts; however, even more affecting is when Sacco's subjects betray mental and emotional scars, which are conveyed through silent close-ups that stretch across multiple panels. While unflinching at times, the book is never a tough read thanks to the author's occasionally wry commentary and bleak sense of humor. Overall, Journalism is a powerful, thought-provoking series of portraits of human beings enduring under inhumane conditions that ranks among Sacco's most important works.
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