JOE SACCO featured in The Oregonian

“A Joe Sacco Reader” / The Oregonian / Inara Verzemnieks / October 23, 2005

"War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96" (2005, Drawn & Quarterly, $14.95) -- In this two-story collection, Sacco explores characters from two very different sides of the war. Sacco's first piece, a profile of a young artist who worked with land mines during the Bosnian conflict, is a poignant exploration of the ways war ages the young. And it gives Sacco a chance to explore some of his favorite artistic territory: crowded, frenetic cafes and rock clubs, where everything looks as loud as it must have sounded. In the second story, Sacco tears around the countryside with two other journalists, looking for wanted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Sacco manages to poke fun at himself and the whole news business in the process, but he also offers a thoughtful, nuanced portrait of how normal real evil can look.

"The Fixer: A Story From Sarajevo" (2003, Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95) -- Sacco returns to Bosnia, this time to Sarajevo, to try to make sense of his complex relationship with a shady character named Nevin, who served as Sacco's -- and many other journalists' -- "fixer" during the Balkan conflict. Sacco skillfully weaves the story of his own questions of moral compromise with the moral compromise of the Bosnian government, which came to depend on warlords, gangsters and questionable characters such as Nevin to help defend the countryside during the war.

"Notes From a Defeatist" (2003, Fantagraphics Books, $19.95) -- This collection of Sacco's early work offers a good sense of his development as a cartoonist and his increasing interest in combining the form with journalism. The book highlights a number of Sacco's humor pieces ("Oliver Limpdingle's Search for Love . . ."), but there's also some moody stuff in here, too. In "More Women, More Children, More Quickly," Sacco documents his mother's experiences as bombs fell on Malta during World War II. Check out the amazing, insane, arresting hatch-work of "A Disgusting Experience." And look for one of my favorite pages of Sacco's, from "How I Loved the War," a perfect visual rendering of heartbreak and the increasingly overwhelming feelings of sadness and obsession that come with it.

"Palestine" (2001, Fantagraphics, $24.95) -- For two months, in the winter of 1991-92, Sacco spent time in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reporting on what life was like there from the Palestinian perspective. The work is a complex, warts-and-all look at the roots of hate and violence and Sacco's attempt to make sense of the contradictions of the conflict. It marked his first large-scale work of comics journalism.

"Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95" (2000, Fantagraphics, $19.95) -- Sacco visited the town of Gorazde, in eastern Bosnia, four times in late 1995 and early 1996. Throughout eastern Bosnia, Serb forces had attacked and "cleansed" towns and villages of Muslim residents with a horrifying fervor. But in Gorazde, somehow, they had managed to survive. Sacco's work is a moving look at "a town's near-death," he writes in his introduction, as well as "a town's first steps in the direction of the living."

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