Tag Archives: middle east

Review: Yasmeen #2

Yasmeen #2
Yasmeen #2, Scout Comics

Saif Ahmed’s and Fabiana Mascolo’s Yasmeen is in many respects a story about the painful process behind coming of age. Focusing on a girl (the titular Yasmeen) living during the ISIS invasion of Mosul, Iraq first and then years later as a refugee in America, the comic is nothing short of a visceral exploration of how unfair and even profoundly violent change can be.

This is made clear in the first issue of the six-part series. The second entry of the story dives deeper into these ideas, but it takes the opportunity to say something different about coming-of-age stories: they’re not universal.

A staple of YA literature, the coming-of-age story deals in transformation, maturity, and acceptance, all brought upon by a particular set of internal and external challenges. It’s such a flexible narrative template that it’s easy to apply to different types of characters going through a variety of self-identity trials. The emphasis is on seeing how characters grow up and how they accept themselves for who they are, imperfections and all.

Yasmeen’s take on this puts the focus on context and the uniqueness of its circumstances. Growing up during an invasion only to migrate to another country and face the stereotypes and misconceptions of one’s own culture from other groups of people is quite simply on a level all of its own. It’s unique and hard to relate to if the reader does not share in the same experience, or has at very least experienced something similar to it. And yet, what makes this story special is that it wants to help readers understand it, regardless of difficulty.

Yasmeen #2 is where the series hits its stride with its simultaneous approach to storytelling. Yasmeen looks to settle into a normal in her new American life in the present timeline while trying to survive in her new role as wife to a man that acquired her after being separated from the family in the past timeline. The exchange between both timelines is relentless, but it is serves a purpose. In Yasmeen coming of age is a constant, never a phase one can conquer and then move on. It leaves scars.

Yasmeen #2, Scout Comics

For Yasmeen, the memories of the past compromise her ability to adapt to the present. But the present brings challenges of its own. She is surrounded by kids of her same age going through their own coming-of-age woes, but their experiences are worlds apart and reconciling those differences is proving quite the challenge. The book’s art captures this with uncomfortable clarity and inventiveness.

Fabiana Mascolo again does an excellent job of dealing with traumatic imagery without being explicit. The lead up to violence or images of abuse is tense and uncomfortable but knows precisely when to change gears into other sequences. It’s also worth mentioning that Mascolo’s facial expressions tell stories of their own. They invite close study to get the most out every character.

The script deftly raises the intensity between the two timelines in this issue, making for a harder-hitting issue than the first one. Things move faster and the terrors of the past face stronger competition from the struggles of student life in America. The change in environments are skillfully managed and always manage to keep each time period in conversation with one another. There’s a sequence in which Yasmeen is surrounded by ghostly images of the ISIS takeover while walking down her school’s cafeteria that is something to behold. It’s deeply haunting and it captures the spirit of the book perfectly.

The second issue of Yasmeen braves unsettling and rough terrains, full of terrible things. But as is the case with the first issue, hope still manages to carve out some space for itself. There’s a lot of darkness still, but the promise of light at the end of the tunnel is there. I don’t expect that light to be all-powerful or all-healing, but I’m intrigued as to what it offers to Yasmeen.

Story: Saif Ahmed Art: Fabiana Mascolo
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Buy and then read Graphic Policy’s interview with the writer.

Scout Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: Scout Comics Store

Superman, Citizen of the World. Right’s Head Explodes?

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I’m good when it comes to fighting apocalyptic threats.  But the everyday degradations that humans suffer? Dying of thirst? Hunger? People being denied their basic human rights? I’ve never been very effective at stopping things like that. And I want to be.

– Superman

I intend to speak before the United Nations tomorrow and inform them that I am renouncing my U.S. citizenship. I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy.

– Superman

Action Comics #900

Action Comics #900 made news this week, not because of it’s the nine hundredth issue of the series, instead it was one of the numerous stories contained within.  It wasn’t the story featuring Superman taking on God that was the problem, instead writer David Goyer’s (Batman Begins) The Incident was the one that got the right’s panties in a bunch.

The story has Superman talking to the President’s National Security Advisor about his flying to Tehran to protest with the Iranian people.  The story is impressive in that it throws out the usual fake countries and leaders DC comics sticks to, but instead names the country and leader.  It also reflects the very real unrest occurring throughout the Middle East.  This action causes an international incident as Iran sees Superman’s stance as an action by the United States.  This causes Superman to think globally and decide to renounce his US citizenship.  He’s decided there’s an entire world for him to protect.  And only DC knows how far they’ll take this pretty comic universe shaking event.

Superman Renouncing Citizenship

But, this has sent ripples through the news and internet with the right denouncing the action.  The American Spectator joked he won’t be voting in 2012 and one of his creators was Canadian.  While the comics industry took it with humor, the right were a bit more serious.  Geek Week for instance looked at what they thought were some of the better highlights.

Most comic books have been on the far left fringe for decades now. There is no surprise or shock value in it anymore when they promote extreme left wing causes like socialism/communism, nor when they attack America or western values.

But, what’s interesting is Superman isn’t actually giving up the “American way” he’s been fighting for.  If anything, he’s becoming an even bigger instrument to bring those values to the world.  Is standing up for democracy in Tehran not American?  It seems that part has been lost on people and for once it’s not Fox News which had decent and even coverage.  The blog The Mary Sue actually had to make things up (with humor) over Fox’s non-story.  Even the conservative New York Post was pretty level with their coverage.  Instead, they used their article to present the facts and took a dig at Donald Trump and birthers.  The Examiner looks at the “growing call for a boycott.”  Having read a lot of articles and comments, I don’t see it and think the Examiner is attempting to turn a match into a raging fire.  Entertainment Weekly just overlooks the controversy and focuses on the main story, which was less than stellar.  This article by the Daily Caller (and linked to by Big Hollywood) I think is an attempt at humor, claiming Superman’s action under a black President is racist.  Um, ok.

Level headiness wasn’t the case for Fox’s commentators which involved the usual lunacy.  But, in fairness that wasn’t limited to just their site.  Canada’s National Post had this one comment by Batman2010:

Screw you Superman, fly off and find freedom and integrity in some other country, try China or Syria!

The usually predictable conservative website Big Hollywood has only taken a shot with the title of their coverage “Left’s Crusade to Destroy Our Heroes Marches On: Superman Renounces God, American Citizenship.”  That article just links and copies Wired‘s article about the subject.

On NewsBusters (and reposted at numerous other websites), writer and managing editor Ken Shepard labeled it “leftist crap.”  Further into what is mostly a recap of the story he writes:

…simply saying that “truth, justice and the American way [is] not enough anymore” is a pretty startling statement from the one man who has always represented those values the most.

But, Superman isn’t saying the “American way” isn’t enough.  If folks actually read the story, he feels he’s not acting globally enough.  He’s not against the “American way,” he actually plans on spreading it globally by helping on an international level, not just being confined to Metropolis.  To do so as an American citizen has global implications.  It would look to be an extension of American foreign policy and cause further international uproar.  Instead, by acting as a non-citizen he can spread the American ideal without further implications on America’s stance and relationships.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, the right should have utter disdain for Superman to begin with.  While some bloggers and commentators touched upon it, Superman is a literal alien, not born in the United States.  He couldn’t have ever been a citizen to begin with, so there’s nothing to renounce.

John Hawkins at Right Wing News has issues with the actual plot and it’s implications, more so than the statement it makes.

Let me go full nerd on you and point this out: It would be impossible for someone like Superman to get involved in geopolitics and remain a good guy long term. There are dozens of governments across the planet abusing and murdering their people on a daily basis. If Superman is going to start getting involved when it happens, then he’s setting himself up as global judge, jury, and inevitably, an executioner — because that’s what it would take to stop some of these governments from raping, robbing, and butchering their populaces. Then, when Superman couldn’t be everywhere at once, the next step would either be giving up or building his own army to overthrow governments and enforce his moral code on other nations. By that point, every government in the world would be nervous enough to try to develop weapons powerful enough to kill Superman for their own defense.

Many predicted the “rage” including Nerdage, The Portland Mercury, Bleeding Cool and Comics Alliance.  Not all the coverage was bad, in fact the reaction was very subdued from what I expected it to be.  The Associated Press, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Herald Sun, News and Sentinel and many more covered the event without opinion.  I’m sure that coverage has spurred sales for the anniversary issue of which I expect numerous printings.

In the end though, it doesn’t matter as Superman is already a citizen of the world.  In 1974 a Superman comic depicted just that.  He’s always been global, he’s now just acting upon it.

The Right Blindly Attacks Sarah Glidden’s The Waiting Room

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Sarah Glidden who has used graphic narrative to explore her own thoughts on being Jewish and traveling to Israel for Birthright has focused on Iraqi refugees displaced since the recent war in Iraq and now reside in Syria in The Waiting Room.  The 20 page web comic is fairly balanced focusing on the hurdles of the refugees.  In Syria, they are not allowed to hold jobs, but many are educated and have skills they can bring to the workforce.  At the same time their status as refugees remains in limbo, forcing them to rely on the slow processes of international efforts to gain basic necessities such as food and education.

What a shock in the usual culprit over at The Astute Blogger Avi Green saw this as an opportunity to attack Glidden for her reporting and also not bother to fact check any of his incorrect opinions.  Right off the bat Green labels Glidden as a “would-be” graphic novelist, demeaning her first piece of work, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.  I thought her first piece of major work was excellent, giving it an overall 10 in the review.  She’s not a “would-be,” she is a graphic novelist.  That remark coming from a “would-be” journalist like Green is downright unnecessary and petty like much of his attacks.

I’m also not quite sure Green has read her work, as he calls it a “a negative stance on Zionism.”  The graphic novel is anything but.  Instead Glidden admits going into the story she expects a hard core stance by her Birthright guides and that she comes from a more left perspective.  Her views by the end are different than going in, as she comes out with a greater understanding of the situation in Israel.  It’s actually quite a positive depiction of Israel.

Green begins to dissect and attack the work at hand, and as usual throws out factually incorrect statements that simple Google searches debunk.  His first issue is Glidden’s commentary on the Iraqi educational system is this panel.

Green has this to say:

Really, was it that solid in education? Saddam lived and died a Muslim, holding a Koran at his trial, and his government run universities would most likely have incorporated the Religion of Peace and anti-Israelist education into their curriculum (one of the other panels at the political cartoon site says the colleges were free, which sounds vaguely similar to the notions some communists/marxists/socialists have of how to do things). I’m not sure you can call that solid stuff. Nor can a religion/education/political system that calls for jihad, oppression of women, and considers Jews “sons of apes and pigs” be something to learn from. And why do I get the vibe these refugees wouldn’t give a crap about how Saddam fired scud missiles at Israel back in 1991, causing plenty of people, myself included, to have to hide in airtight rooms?

A simple search online actually reveals the facts.  According to UNESCO prior to the 1991 Gulf War ” Iraq had one of the best educational performances in the region. Primary school Gross Enrollment Rate was 100% and literacy levels were high.”  Since the war with Iran and especially after the 1991 Gulf War, education has slid and declined.  However, they are still considered an educated populace.

Green also shows his blind hatred of any sort of left philosophy calling the Iraq free college education “vaguely similar to the notions some communists/marxists/socialists have of how to do things.”  I guess Green also is against the free primary education here in the United States.  I do wonder if hey actually thinks through his hypocrisy or just slings out the bullshit without even thinking.  Free education exists in many countries throughout the world and in non-communist/marxist/socialist nations like Australia and Brazil.  In Australia and Brazil that does include college education.  But again, a simple Google search would have allowed Green to do real journalism.  Not the “would-be” type he practices.

But really Green’s blind hatred for Iraq and Iraqi’s is present in this telling line:

And why do I get the vibe these refugees wouldn’t give a crap about how Saddam fired scud missiles at Israel back in 1991, causing plenty of people, myself included, to have to hide in airtight rooms?

His criticism as shown in that quote has nothing to do with facts or the story as presented, it’s his absolute hatred for Iraqis.  Green seems to forget back in 1991 there was a war that raged in the Gulf that forced allies to band together a remove Saddam from the invaded Kuwait.  Those attacks were part of that war.  That’s just a fact.  I’m sorry he needed to hide in an airtight room as the allies bombed Iraq as well.

But lets continue to dissect and disarm Green’s fantasy land attack.  He then goes on in his rant of a blog post calling the web comic “propaganda” citing this panel.

Green has this to say:

So the woman drawn in the panel blames America for her misfortunes, not Saddam for the oppression, nor the terrorists who went on a rampage after the US raid. Perhaps she might want to consider that nearly a decade ago, when the raid took place, there were terrorists going through Syria to get to Iraq, and Syria helped and encouraged many to do so. But she probably won’t. The 7th panel at the political cartoon site has the interviewee saying, “America set fire to my country and we lost everything”. Not exactly. There is a legitimate case that could be made that the US military didn’t do a good enough job at defeating the invading terrorists properly at the beginning, and this is what led to their misfortunes. But it appears she’s only blaming America for invading in the first place, and not the jihadists who crossed through Syria into Iraq. What, they don’t have any responsibility?

What Green leaves out is this panel:

Clearly there are Iraqis who have no problem with America, especially if they’re moving here or receiving their education from American universities as this web comic tells.  The above is an absolute misrepresentation of what’s presented by leaving out further panels.

But again Green shows off his hypocrisy.  He rages against, and clearly hates Iraqis for their attack against Israel as part of the 1991 Gulf War.  But when an Iraqi shows distrust and dislikes the United States for bombing their country, that’s not ok.  Pretty sure there’s something up with that logic there.

But he seems to be mixing up what people are talking about.  In his “logical” response about someone’s dislike of the United States due to the second Gulf War, Green takes a divergent discussion bringing up terrorists and jihadists invading from Syria.  One has nothing to do with the other.  This next part is brilliance by Green:

“America set fire to my country and we lost everything”. Not exactly.

So were you there Avi?  Did you see the bombs fall?  It’s kind of hard to say that this didn’t occur.  We bombed that country, infrastructure was destroyed, people lost lives, it happened.  How did it “not exactly” happen?  Because we didn’t do a good enough job of beating the shit out of the nation.  Green goes on “There is a legitimate case that could be made that the US military didn’t do a good enough job at defeating the invading terrorists properly at the beginning, and this is what led to their misfortunes.”  Green actually advocates for blowing more things up.  So I guess his “not exactly” was more in reference to the refugee’s statement of “lost everything” and the United States military could have actually destroyed more.

Green then takes issue with an article by Comic Beat on this work by Glidden:

Glidden is definitely following in the footsteps of the incomparable Joe Sacco in becoming a graphic reporter on the trouble spots of the world. While there’s only one Sacco, Glidden is finding her own place in the field with her work.

Avi spends the rest of the post beating up on Sacco who at times does take a side in his “graphic reporting.”  While the Comic Beat is just stating the fact that like Sacco, Glidden is using graphic novels as a way to report and depict real world events, Green takes it more personal (he really hates Sacco) as if Glidden has the same stances or beliefs as Sacco:

When they start comparisons with a foul fiend like Sacco, something is wrong.


And back to Glidden now, it’s tragic that the artform of comics is being abused by such loathsome people to attack Israel and America. I wonder if her next destination will be to attack the Israeli army (which I served in when I was 19-21, even if it was only in supplies duties)? She is just as bad news as Sacco.

Say what you will about Sacco’s work, the only comparison that two have is they both cover the Middle East and both use graphic journalism to tell their tales.  Their view points are divergent.  But again, Green’s attacks on Sacco are telling.  Green clearly has issues with free speech and viewpoints that aren’t his own.

Green is a Zionist, he doesn’t believe that people called “Palestinian” exist.  When that’s the viewpoint you take, it’s hard to hear the opinion, take or viewpoint of anyone else.  And as long as Green presents misleading statements, lies stated as facts and uncalled for attacks, I’ll be here to call his bullshit.

Controversy Over Footnotes in Gaza

We figured that Joe Sacco’s latest graphic noverl Footnotes in Gaza would have it’s detractors.  But the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has issue has issues not only with Sacco’s work but also the New York Times review of the graphic novel.

CAMERA accuses both Sacco and reviewer Patrick Cockburn of anti-Israel bias and “antagonism towards Israel.”  They go on to question the Times’s stance since it both ok’ed the review and Cockburn’s writing of it.

Sacco has admitted his sympathy for Palestinians and his attempt to show their side of the issue.  CAMERA doesn’t quite make the case of Cockburns’ bias (only poor writing).  CAMERA then goes onto praising the Wall Street Journal’s review as more balanced.

From their website CAMERA is described as:

Founded in 1982, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America is a media-monitoring, research and membership organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. CAMERA fosters rigorous reporting, while educating news consumers about Middle East issues and the role of the media. Because public opinion ultimately shapes public policy, distorted news coverage that misleads the public can be detrimental to sound policymaking. A non-partisan organization, CAMERA takes no position with regard to American or Israeli political issues or with regard to ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As we’re fairly new to Sacco’s work we have all of his graphic novels on order or in our hands to read and will be providing our review of both his work on issues in the Middle East as well as his coverage of the Bosnian war.

Journalist to Take on Immigration Through Comics

Malta Today has an article about Maltese-born US journalist Joe Sacco.  Sacco is best known for his take on such issues and the Middle East Peace Process and the Bosnian war using the comic book format.  He has turned his attention towards immigration as the topic for an upcoming publication.

In an interview with The Observer (UK), Sacco revealed that he is currently working on “a 48-page comic for the Virginia Quarterly Review about African migrants who attempt to get into Europe via Malta.”

Sacco was born in Hal Kirkop in 1960, but emigrated to Australia as a child and later to the United States.  He is the author of a number of critically acclaimed political comic-books.

Palestine, which was published in 1996, is arguably the most successful of his career. It has been described by leading orientalist Edward Said as:

A political and aesthetic work of extraordinary originality.

Sacco depicted his travels and encounters with Palestinians and several Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank during the mid-1990s.  These interactions make up the strips that is Palestine.  The publication won an American Book Award in 1996 and was serialised as a comic book from 1993 to 2001 and then published in several collections.

Sacco has also won international critical acclaim with his Safe Area Goražde, a similarly pictorial account his experiences in the troubled Balkans during the Bosnian conflict. Safe Area Goražde won the Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel in 2001.

Joe Sacco earned a Guggenheim fellowship for his work, which has helped him finance future projects – including his ongoing work on immigration through Malta, as well as a simultaneous project depicting life in Camden, New Jersey – America’s poorest town.

Comic Journalism has become an increasingly popular form of story telling spanning such topics as travels of the authors, personal biographies and recent events such as the 2008 Presidential election.