After a month of waiting my postbox delivered a beauty to me. The first DC Comics set in Uganda. Finally the Unknown Soldier has my skin!
One of the things that turns men from potential suitors for me into ‘just friends’ in the twinkling of an eye, is my collection of comics. The average Ugandan 30-something male does not think it attractive for a 30-something female to have a mild obsession for comic books and ingrown toenails. That’s okay. It means that my collection (which is pretty new) is safe and the number of frogs I kiss before I get to the prince is reduced considerably.
The newest Unknown Soldier is authored by Joshua Dysart who has written for the Van Helsing, Hellboy and Conan series.
Dysart (click here for his insightful blog) spent about a month in Northern Uganda doing research for the comic. It is full of child soldiers, death, the futility of celebrity, misguided humanitarian workers and of course an unlikely hero. In traditional Unknown Soldier style, the face of the protagonist on the cover of the comic book is bandage-wrapped; however only a few pages in, we are introduced to Moses Lwanga, pacifist doctor turned macho hero.
Apart from the location and the story of Unknown Soldier, the fact that for the first time we known the identity of the hero is the major thing that sets this comic apart from its predecessors. I was a little put off by this … but I’m hoping it will grow on me.
Alberto Ponticelli’s art is moving. For a native of Kampala, I felt his street scenes were a good depiction of the only life I know.
The action scenes contain all the usual blood and gore, but it isn’t gratuitous. The dialogue is cheesy, but that is why we love comics so much. It is all, afterall, complimentary to the story of the Northern Uganda war that is complex, ironic and devastating.
Ignorance of what exactly the war in Northern Uganda meant for millions who suffered under it is extremely high in the rest of this country. For many people living south of the Karuma Falls, it was too far removed from their peaceful reality to comprehend. Misunderstanding is highest among youth under 25 living outside of the affected region. Many of them are unaware of the future repercussions of growing up with a generation of people that were subjected – and for the most part, abandoned to – a life at the brink of the abyss.
It excites me that Unknown Soldier is that it will, perhaps, bring the story of the north to an entirely new generation.
Quoth a reviewer from The Examiner:
One of the incredible things about this series is the sense of rage, frustration, tragedy and the utter sense of seeming helplessness that spin out of this story … Many of the situations that are depicted in this series are events and happenings that actually transpire and it is in this that one finds pervading feelings of dread and horror. The idea that much of what you are seeing unfolding within the pages of this series could very likely transpire sometimes makes you wish that this piece were purely fictional.
Yes, comics are entertainment, but sometimes they should also make you think. The Unknown Soldier definitely falls into both of these categories. Chock full of action while pondering the deeper issues makes this series a must read.
P.S.: You can borrow my copy, of course. The terms a simple – come to my home with a bottle of 2005 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir Walker Bay, a bar of Amedei Madagascar bittersweet chocolate and most important of all, Peter Magona’s phone number. Actually, if you just come with Peter Magona’s number, I could omit the other two demands ;-)