The most recent issue of GQ includes a feature entitled "For God and Country: An Illustrated Account of the Raid on Osama bin Laden." To be honest, I was rather skeptical of a comic book version of the gruesome assassination, but I figured it was worth a look given the project was handled by two of my favorite comic book creators: rising star writer Matt Fraction (he made our list of top graphic novels for designers) and indie artist Nathan Fox. Unfortunately, reading the illustrated story was an experience I'd rather soon forget.
The question that immediately came to mind was, "Why is there a comic book version of how we killed Osama bin Laden?" Perhaps I would be less appalled by a movie version of the events, as our cinemas seem inundated with film versions of events as hallowed as what happened on Flight 93 and I've been adequately numbed to the revisionist hindsight of cinema. In fact, there's even a movie coming out soon based superficially on the actions of the Navy SEALs.
Or maybe I felt uncomfortable reading the story because comic books still seem, in my mind, a little comical as a way of presenting serious events. I'm sure this comment will draw some ire, so I'll be the first one to point out graphic novels like Blankets or Palestine that deal with real life quite well. I know graphic novels are quickly becoming a well-respected art form, as well they should be, but just because some graphic novels are art does not mean that all graphic novels are. Just take a look at Frank Miller's Holy Terror.
And the way "For God and Country" is presented makes the whole thing seem trite. Details like the comic book sound effects or the over-dramatic internal monologues or the inset close-ups of bin Laden's eyes do not help the case. This is an action movie re-telling. Even the artist, Nathan Fox, describes his illustrations as attempts to "aid with the suspension of disbelief and maximal bad ass'ness..."
The top half of the final page has "the last thing [bin Laden] ever saw. Intense and unapologetic." Is this really how the whole bin Laden saga needs to be remembered? As a bloody double tap to the head with "pok" and "pak" sound effects? I think the military handled the end quite well, with an unpublicized ceremony and burial at sea. It didn't need a comic book rendition in a "gentlemen's" magazine.