January 27, 2011

Aaron and Ahmed: A love story

Writer: Jay Cantor | Artist: James Romberger | Colourist: Jose Villarrubia

Review by Gavin O’Reilly

I had been putting this review off with a lot of other things. I have a lot of unwritten articles for Liberation Frequency, and as my good Irish father would say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions son”. However, my general business and resulting lethargy (don’t you hate it when ‘real life’ gets in the way of what you really want to do?) have not deterred me (in the long run) from saying what I feel needs to be said about this graphic novel- a good credit to the art form that is comic, partly also due to the fact that I would struggle to see this story take shape in any other medium other than say, indie cinema (at a push). One of the wonders of comics- a writer and an artist has a vision and can make it happen- no stellar budget necessary, even for blockbuster type stories.

I digress- the story of Aaron and Ahmed is certainly not blockbuster fare (unless you can count the pink blip that was Brokeback Mountain a few years back?) and brings several potentially tinderbox hot topics to the fore. Please note, this is not a gay-centric tale, that part of the story is a sort of happenstance and is not the point. Which as a gay man I like; I like to read a tale of potentially homosexual men that isn’t a story about their homosexuality. No, the main thrust of this story is trying to tackle a question that as a former resident of Northern Ireland I have often struggled with: what causes terrorism?

The story Aaron Goodman, who, after his (female) fiancée dies in 9/11 gives up his career as a doctor to become an interrogator at Guantanamo Bay (not sure how smooth or easy that professional changeover would be). Here he stumbles on the idea of ‘Meme theory’ being the cause of terrorism, and ultimately leads him to Ahmed, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay- and this is where the tale really begins- forcing you to both believe and in turn the distrust Ahmed and his intentions, and ultimately feel the relationship between the two men, and where they have come from to where they find themselves. The artwork by Romberger tells the story well, I love the facial expressions, the panel layouts work well and I particularly like the hallucinatory sequences. I can imagine being that mashed up.

The reason this book has compelled me to sit down and type is because it is the first time in a while I have put a comic (or a book for that matter) down in some time that has really made me think, as well as simply enjoying the story as a story.

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