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Book Review < Back

Notes From a Defeatist

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Joe Sacco
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books


I couldn't manage the screen real estate properly, so I took my wife's laptop and set it up next to mine. Three video streams going at once: the news from London, multiple cameras from Times Square, and CNN infrared of what I think is a bus terminal in Baghdad. This way, my machine was free to have the web browser open next to Word so I could write until I got jammed up, skim the headlines, and get back to it. The windows were opened - the actual, like, holes-in-my-wall-covered-with-glass kind of windows, I mean - and it felt like springtime. Wireless broadband, a cup of coffee, and sucking in all the visual data that I could, simply because I could.

When she got home, my wife took her computer back and made fun of me.

Joe Sacco would understand. NOTES FROM A DEFEATIST proves it.

This collection of short pieces from comics' own war correspondent fills the gaps between Sacco's two major works Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde. Presenting dispatches from the front lines of all kinds of wars, NOTES FROM A DEFEATIST has war stories from the van of a rock band touring Europe, the memories of his mother's childhood in an Italy in the grips of the Second World War, and even an oral history of civilian bombing. The centerpiece of the book, How I Loved the War, chronicles Sacco's struggles to reconcile his intellectual and ethical rejection of combat and all that's endemic to it and his obsession with the real-time techno-journo-info-porn of the war in the gulf.

You know. The first one.

And yet, through all the breaking news and multiple media streams Sacco deliberately saturates himself in, the brightest parts of NOTES FROM A DEFEATIST resonate as much as they do because of the simplicity of their presentation. No catchy war music, no unified battle event branding, no smart bomb camera-shots, and no embedded journalists filing infrared reports from the back of Abrams tanks - just words and pictures put to page by one of comics' most important creators.

-- Matt Fraction

Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.


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