JARED GARDNER reviews Journalism and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt and finds that the radical disjunction between how Hedges and Sacco approach their subjects is fascinating and instructive.
It has been a good fifteen years now since our cultural gatekeepers collectively patted themselves on the back for having discovered that comics were “not just for kids anymore,” and in that time several remarkable achievements in the form have found their way into the critical spotlight. But for every Persepolis and Fun Home that has become the focus of such attention (and landed on high school and university class syllabi alongside the long-time lonesome Maus), the last generation has also seen dozens of major works of graphic literature largely ignored by those who do not buy their books in stores with names like “The Laughing Ogre” or “Forbidden Planet.”
It could reasonably be argued that the most under-appreciated creator working in the form today is Joe Sacco. Despite the awards and accolades his books have earned over the years, the fact that he is not read and studied more regularly alongside what have come to be considered canonical works in graphic nonfiction would be surprising were the reasons for the neglect not fairly clear. Sacco’s work focuses almost exclusively on war zones and the seemingly hopeless plight of the perennially dispossessed, and most American readers don’t like their portraits of despair unleavened by “hope” or easy answers. Sacco, it would seem, is constitutionally incapable of fakery of this kind, even for narrative effect. No wonder, then, that Sacco resists a wholesale critical and scholarly embrace.
Image: Panel from Journalism by Joe Sacco