Thursday, August 12, 2010

Brian K Vaughan’s Calling Card – Pride of Baghdad

Choosing this instalment of Calling Cards for Brian K Vaughan was perhaps the hardest out of the lot, so far. BKV is quite possibly my favourite writer in the field of comics today. The man is a genius and so many of his works are deserving of spotlight, and so many are damn near perfect, but for choosing the one he could slap down on the table to show anyone and hope they would understand him was hard. There are a lot of stories I could have picked, and I will discuss them, but in the end I stand by my choice. I think Pride of Baghdad could be the one standalone work for BKV, so hit the jump to find out how I came to this decision.

This choice does not come lightly. I am such a massive fan, student, lover of so much of his work that I had to slowly knock things out of contention to make any room for one to ascend. I would almost have picked his Dark Horse mini The Escapists as it is very well written, the characters are all pretty damn cool, and the artwork in it is phenomenal but I just don’t see it standing up as the right one work for BKV because it relies so heavily on Michael Chabon’s perfect novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Sure, The Escapists can be read and enjoyed on its own but I feel with the novel behind it the entire story becomes something just that more grand. I wouldn’t want to direct someone to this and either make them miss out on so much of the premise or also be adding quite a weighty tome to their reading list.

I would cite Y: The Last Man as my favourite comic story of all time but I’m not sure the first trade could work as a calling card. It’s a great introduction, and I could probably be pretty easily convinced to sway my vote towards this trade but ultimately I think Y works best as a complete tale, all 60 issues. But, you know what, if you want to go out and pick it up, or think of it as BKV’s calling card then you go right ahead, I certainly won’t stop you. The opening trade stops in a great place, with all the pieces set up on the board and the majestic tale in front of you waiting to be travelled. I still think the final trade is the finest collection in that opus as it contains the beautiful and haunting finale and also issue #57 which is possibly my favourite single issue of all time. You see the amount of quality I had to cast aside just to get to my final choice, it was damn hard. However, a decision had to be made and I made it with the intended audience in full view, I wanted someone who had no idea about BKV, perhaps no idea about comics, and I wanted them to be able to see that this medium we love can really do something different, and BKV is the man to do it, so I selected:

Brian K Vaughan’s Pride of Baghdad

I picked this OGN for a few reasons that I think make it the perfect calling card to leave with someone. It’s stand alone, which is always nice; it’s not about any established characters, which always helps with new readers; and it’s absolutely gorgeous and very well written, which is all you can really ask for. As far as coming in to see what BKV’s about, this comic gives you plenty.

The story follows a pride of lions who are ‘liberated’ from their zoological confines in Baghdad due to bombing. They go on an adventure through the town and BKV manages to pack them so full of character and insight that you quickly fall into the anthropological tale and never look back. This isn’t a cute Pixar flick of talking animals, either, it’s more a brutal study of man and war and the effects on everything that surrounds any current war zone be it the soldiers, the occupants of the country in which the fight rages, the environment, the buildings, the animals. We see that these drastic violent acts ripple out and nothing is left unaffected.

BKV creates one of the most poignant endings of any comic story. You can only sit back after finishing this tale and think about it. It’s not some popcorn piece of entertainment that you walk away from unchanged. This book is a message as much as it is entertainment, but it never feels didactic and therein lies BKV’s skill. He’s doesn’t exactly tell you the lesson so you never feel like you learn, you just know that within you there is a change, a new perception, and an experience you won’t soon forget.


This book shocked me in how great it was and I think slapping it on anyone’s desk is going to raise their attention instantly. This is BKV doing something standalone and proving that he can tell a short form tale, he can still create his own characters, and he can constantly make his work mean something. I always feel like every word on a BKV page has been thought about on at least three occasions before he finally lets it stay. Everything has to earn its place and this entire story has earned its place as the calling card for this master of the craft.

If you’d like to suggest an alternative then please make your argument in the comments.

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natureboyHH said...

I've seen this in my LCS before but I never really thought about picking it up. I would have suggested Y, but I'll see what Pride of Baghdad has to offer. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


I've never really read much by BKV, but after reading this I've decided to give it a try. Picked it up at my LCS during lunch.

Must say I really like these calling card posts.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Excellent, two possible converts, please try and come back and tell me what you thought of the book.

When I first picked it up I kept letting it slip down the pile to be read, it just didn't seem like it would be awesome, y'know. Then I just read the first page and I was surprised by the artwork, it's damn good. Then the story just grabs you and it's a one sitting affair. Hope you lads like it.

mrpeepants said...

love bkv. I stopped watching lost around when he got added to it. Pride of Baghdad is good, but The Escapists or Ex Machina would be my pick. Ex Machina because it covers everything.

Erica McGillivray said...

I loved Pride of Baghdad. It's such a clever story interwoven into a larger narrative of war.

I agree with your calling card choice because with any of his longer series, you want to read it all and they build upon each other. The last issue of Y: The Last Man is so brilliant because of everything which came before.

Danny Rand said...

No love for Runaways? You can't go wrong with BKV, he's fantastic, but that first Runaways arc was so funny and well-written... and Molly Hayes is in it! There's no Molly in Pride of Baghdad!

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Ladies and gentleman, it's Danny Rand!

I like Runaways, don't get me wrong, but it's nothing compared to Y or Ex or Pride. Nothing, y'hear me?

Anonymous said...


Ryan I read it this weekend and I thought it was really good. I've really gotten into getting the vertigo titles in trade recently and this was good. I really liked how in the first part of the story they showed some background on the animals that lived in the wild before being trapped in the zoo.

So my question is I'd like to read more BKV books, which would you start with EX or Y?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Shawn - considering I'd count Y as possibly the best comic story I have ever read I suppose I'm leaning that way. I wouldn't say it's superior to Ex, but rather that I much prefer it over Ex and do think it's slightly better.

I am reading Ex in the oversized hardcovers right now, 3 down, a few more to go, whereas you can score all of Y right now in trade, and I think the HC's for it are nearly all released. It's just such a top series, you can't go wrong on either but my vote goes to Y!

Also, yeah, the background history on the lions is so superbly done. Pride just really shocks with how great it is.

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