War’s End – A Review

Joe Sacco is a writer whose work has always seemed to show the great power of the Graphic Novel. His comic journalism (not a disparaging description) is some of the best work I’ve seen in the field (and thankfully avoids the self obsessed woe is me story of other graphic novels). His artistry is in the comic genre, tending towards the caricature with people, but his drawings are realistic and detailed in a way that strives to document and highlight the story at hand. The stories in War’s End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-1996are those of Bosnia at the end of the war. This is the third of his books in Bosnia, obviously not as strong as his master work Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995, but still showing his deft ability to write about war and yet never forget that for good or bad, he as a journalist is part of the story.

Soba, the first story, is not so much a story of war, but aftermath, an exploration of PTSD and rootlessness that comes after war. Yet it is more than just the soldiers coming back from the front, but a whole generation, a whole society that thought it was civilized and modern. What Sacco finds is the self destruction and disappointment that often comes with at the end of such wars. It is a solid, if brief, examination of the all to common and I think not repeated enough result of intense combat.

The second story, Christmas with Karadzic, isn’t as strong, but it does show that Sacco is aware of himself as participant and doesn’t try to deceive himself that he is an impartial professional. During the Christmas of 1995 he with several other journalists goes to interview Karadzic. It is not a particularly perilous journey, but it has its adventure and adrenaline. They get the scoop in the Republica Serbska and return to Sarajevo. Joe finds that he loves it; it was exciting and the other journalists, who live on cigarettes and tips, give him a rush. It is a two edged sword, because the idea is they are sending facts back to the papers, but it is as much an adventure as anything else. The willingness to show the reporters as part of the story is what makes Sacco interesting.

It is too bad that he has said that he probably can’t keep writing books like this because he can’t keep doing the journalism. Hopefully, the next one will be as interesting.