Special Forces

Difficult to tell where the satire begins with this comic. The final page contains what must be a heartfelt dedication to the "mentally handicapped and / or felons who have given their lives in the service of freedom" – awkwardly phrased but laudible enough. But then Kyle Baker also makes abundantly clear that much of the comic is simply a thrill ride stuffed with shooting and explosions, and I'm not sure how much the exploitation elements (the cheesecake Lara Croft heroine, the GTA-in-Bagdad action sequences) is meant to make us feel bad. Even the political stuff is ambiguously phrased. The terrorists' motive boils down to "we hate your freedom" – a laughable characterization dreamed up by the discredited neocons in Bush's White House. But then in the CBR interview, Baker goes on about how his collection of misfits are "bringing freedom and democracy to the oppressed savages of Iraq", hardly a more nuanced viewpoint.

When I visited the World Trade memorial in New York last year, we were shown around by a survivor of the 9/11 attacks, one of the many volunteers who share their story of the day and try to keep the memory of the events alive. His account was very moving (not a dry eye when he described how he ran up Manhattan looking for a phone to call his wife), but when he came to talk about the terrorists he reproduced the unsatisfactory "they hate our freedom" explanation. Baker (also a New Yorker, perhaps even an eyewitness on 9/11) may also have found it easier to accept this "freedom vs. terror" rhetoric rather than probe deeper into the dynamics that produce such belligerent anti-Americanism.

The dedication at the end expresses the hope that "we will someday be worthy of your sacrifice", suggesting that Baker's beef is with the way the war is being fought, rather than the justification for it. There are shots at Dick Cheney, Halliburton and Blackwater, and also the recognition that nuclear weapons are a front for securing Iraq's oil fields. This critique is confused, however, when it turns out that the terrorists do actually have nukes and are planning on using them – exactly the nightmare scenario used to sell the 2003 invasion. Ultimately, it looks like Kyle Baker doesn't know what to believe, and rather than try to tease out the conflicting narratives and arrive at something meaningful to say, he mashes everything together into a kind of grey satirical slurry. "All the best comic books are about fights and teenage angst. You want messages, buy a phone" says Baker. Terrible joke aside, fact is by setting the action in Iraq and calling the comic a satire you suggest that you DO have a message. Indeed, it would be a dereliction of duty as a storyteller to NOT have something to say with such a set up, no matter how enjoyable the shooting and explosions are.

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