Gravity in the Graphic Form: A Review of Joe Sacco’s ‘Journalism’

Spanning over ten years of work across the globe, Joe Sacco’s latest release, Journalism, amasses most of the shorter reporting pieces he has investigated during that period.  Weighing in at nearly two-hundred pages it is not small and far from being irrelevant.  Within this graphic novel the reader is transported from the War Crime Tribunal of The Hague, to the testimonials of Chechen War refugees, Palestinian and Israeli habitation conflicts in Gaza, the mass migration of Africans into the island nation of Malta, American combatants in Iraq and the Iraqi men they are attempting to train and finally cumulating in the deplorable caste system conditions in India.

Journalism is an eyewitness account, lyrically and graphically, of what it means to be displaced, to be torn, and frustrated in a world containing both the physical and metaphysical borders within a modern politico.  Sacco embeds himself in these circumstances.  You never lose sense of his presence in the history he is detailing with sympathies generally lying with the accounts of the unfortunate in his articles.  He makes note of this in his preface.

“I chiefly concern myself with those who seldom get a hearing, and I don’t feel it is incumbent on me to balance their voices with the well-crafted apologetics of the powerful.  The powerful are generally excellently served by the mainstream media or propaganda organs.  The powerful should be quoted, yes, but to measure their pronouncements against the truth, not to obscure it….the blessing of an inherently interpretive medium like comics is that it hasn’t allowed me to lock myself within the confines of traditional journalism.  By making it difficult to draw myself out of a scene, it hasn’t permitted me to make a virtue of dispassion.  For good or for ill, the comics medium is adamant, and it has forced me to make choices.”

Reading Journalism has been incredibly rewarding.  As a reporting cartoonist, Joe Sacco is without peer.  Perhaps, I am just naïve concerning the catalogue of others that do similar work, but I cannot imagine anyone replicating the massively intricate individual details of his subjects with the stunning and accurate landscapes around them.  I can only imagine the amount of time dedicated to each cell.  You feel like you are with the U.S. Marines at Haditha, alongside the women and children living in particle board rooms in Nazran, and clearly feel the tension of citizens and refugees alike in the streets of Malta.  The excellent placement of text and dialogue bubbles is never a case of interference and compliments the articles impeccably.  Voices of the people are heard distinctly and without bias.  Sacco chronicles these sad and often disturbing realities with a subtle sense of humor that never minimizes the tragedy, yet allows them to breathe more fluidly in the readers mind.

Most of these accounts we may have heard of, others perhaps not as much.  All of them deserve an intimate look if we are to be considered educated and understanding individuals in a globally interactive environment.  You may not be amazed or shocked at what you discover in the reporting in Journalism, although I would find that hard to believe, but, I doubt you will again look at the world and the violations of humanity with the same eyes again.  Quite possibly you will be urged to act and at the very least have temptation for further discovery.

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PRI’s The World, an affiliate of the BBC, is a great resource for global events and also features an interview with Joe Sacco here.

Other Sacco titles available are: Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza, But I Like It, Notes from a Defeatist, The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo, War’s End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96, Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95

Journalism was published my Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, Copyright 2012 by Joe Sacco.

Published by Samien Schoen

A fan, and promoter, of the graphic novel artform. A lover of life and song. A dreamer of incredible and alternate realities. A witness to the dedication of an open mind.

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