War is Boring

December 2nd, 2010 at 3:39 pm

A provocative title for a slender graphic novel that is boring.

War is Boring by David Axe

It begins formally and dutifully enough. With a dedication.

“For Moqtar Hirabe, gunned down by Somali insurgents in Mogadishu in June 2009 – and for all the other fixers, stringers, interpreters, drivers and guards who’ve risked their lives, and sometimes given them, to help us reporters do our jobs.”

Following this honorable, respectful acknowledgment, Ted Rall’s introduction let’s us know a bit more about this David Axe guy who thinks War is Boring. Axe is an adrenaline junkie with a death wish. He is cynical. He’s not afraid of dying.

But most importantly, David Axe is a war correspondent and with him via cartooney frames we go to Chad, Iraq, and back home to South Carolina where Axe tells us that, sure, War is Boring but Peace is Worse.

And then on to Lebanon, Washington DC, and East Timor where Axe is stricken by a severe bout of contemplation.

“Truth is, I didn’t really know any more what was normal, or, for that matter, what was right, what was wrong, and what was best for myself and those around me. Is war an aberration or the most basic human function, the thing we resort to when all our comforts crumble?

“In choosing war, was I courageously embracing some important, painful truth? Or was I willfully ignoring the real truth? That most people live in peace, comfortably, happily, and have no need for a place like East Timor. Had war chosen me, or had I chosen it? And what did that say about me?”

And on to Afghanistan where we are exposed to corruption and death.


And a second bout of existentialism.

“I should have been happy. After all I’d seen and done, I should have treasured every friendship, relished every beer and reveled in every moment I wasn’t getting shot at, blown up or mortared.

{Yeah, you should have. You’d probably have a more compelling story to tell.}

“But every beer tasted stale. Every conversation was a lie. I still found war tedious. I still found peace worse. I didn’t feel much anymore. What pleasure I used to take in everyday things was replaced with a constant low-grade anger.

“Anger at the millions of Americans who sacrifice nothing while their neighbors fight and die overseas. Anger at the pundits and editorial cartoonists who make their living criticizing wars they know nothing about and are too cowardly to go see for themselves.

{You say War is Boring. I say War is Bad. I don’t need to experience war to know its spoils. I don’t need to have tragedy to know it’s sorrow. I don’t need to have cancer to know that it’s bad.}

“Anger at the assholes who started it all. But mostly anger at myself for thinking that going off to war would make me smarter, sexier, and happier.

{Yeah, that was foolish. And now I’m angry at myself for thinking that your book was going to be engaging, worthwhile, and good.}

“Maybe I wasn’t angry at the ignorant Americans after all. Maybe I was jealous.”

And then on to Somalia.

And on to his girlfriend dumping him and his return home. To Detroit.

In the Afterword, Axe is bleak and crass.

“The more of the world I see, the less sense it makes. The more different people I meet, the less I believe in their humanity. The older I get, the less comfortable I am in my own skin. We are a world at war, sometimes quietly, often not. We are the cleverest monsters, and we deserve everything we’ve got coming.

“Everything falls apart. Everyone dies in time. In the great, slow reduction of our lives and history, the things we can believe in shrink into a space smaller than our own bodies. To preserve them, for as long as you might, arm yourself, and be afraid.”

Ultimately, there are many reasons why War is Boring was an unsuccessful contribution to the canon of storytelling. Perhaps it was a poor choice of form? For a graphic novel from a war correspondent, it is starkly void of stirring imagery. Little action, little plot or decision making. And what a slouch of a protagonist. <See above>

Arm yourself. Be afraid.

Not bad advice. Can’t say as I disagree. And I’ve never even been to Chad nor Iraq nor South Carolina nor Lebanon nor Washington D.C. nor East Timor nor Afghanistan nor Somalia nor Detroit.

I guess I’m disappointed because while it is acceptable for War to be Boring, it is categorically unacceptable for Your Book to be Boring.

I’m disappointed in the book’s tone. It strikes me as immature, glib, and unexamined. Too much time spent with Axe’s neuroses and emotional flailing (which aren’t very entertaining). His actual war reporting I’m sure is stellar and gripping.

P.P.S. David, you have found violent, bloody conflict to be boring. Have you tried drugs? Sex?

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