The Hot Breath of War by Alixopulos
I don't know if it's my rapidly approaching senility or my bizarre work schedule, but I would have sworn that I reviewed Mine Tonight 6 months ago, tops. Turns out that it was more like 18 months ago. An irrelevant detail, unless you're thinking that I'm some sort of authority at, well, anything. This is less a coherent graphic novel than it is a collection of 6 pieces, but they do have elements of war and its aftermath tenuously holding them together. First up is We Are Defeated, an at least mildly zany take on war, our national "strategy" of winning hearts and minds, the language barrier and the utter insanity of it all. Next is Data Recovery, as a young man who thought that data recovery would be an exciting job gets a jolt of reality, then tries to remember if there's anyone in the world he cares about. There's A Monkey On My Back follows, telling a story from the perspective of a child about war and how he no longer knows where to run when he's scared. Valadolid 1936 tells a short but fascinating story of prisoners facing a firing squad, and if it's a true story it's even more fascinating. ...And His Breath Is Hot, if you want my opinion (and if you don't you should have stopped reading ages ago), is the best story in the book. It's all about a young girl who meets a "victorious" solider while going out to bury her mother. Their conversation and their collective brutal honesty says all about war that ever needed to be said. Finally there's A Journey In Time, in which three characters with distinctly different goals for the evening meet up by chance, with two of them going home together and one of them getting one step closer to going insane. It's not a spoiler as long as I don't tell you which one, right? Writing all this out, it occurs to me that these pieces are more closely related than I first thought. Even the last piece had a disabled bar owner who looked to be struggling to survive. It's easy and understandable to have war fatigue in this country, even if our national media mostly either pretends the wars don't exist or they try to fluff them up for one political party or the other. This works goes around all of that and just tries to quietly tell the story of people involved at various stages of war. It's a damned thoughtful book, and it's making me rethink my policy of writing a review right after reading a book. I get the feeling this one is going to be percolating in me for a while to come...
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