Review: Killing Geronimo

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks

The hunt for Osama bin Laden is one of the most fascinating stories in recent American history. We're all well aware of the raid that Seal Team Six made of bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Afghanistan and the intense drama and events that happened there.

But few of us really know the details and politics that led to the events that happened at Abbottabad. There have been a number of books written about the events that happened as a result of 9/11. Now we can add a new book to that list: the new documentary graphic novel Killing Geronimo.

Killing Geronimo

This book is written strictly as a history, telling the story of 9/11 and the subsequent hunt for Osama bin Laden in an objective, journalistic light while resisting the temptation to dramatize the events that are presented. There's really no need to dramatize the events because so many of them are extremely dramatic in and of themselves.

More than once American troops get very close to being able to capture bin Laden, and again and again they miss in their efforts – sometimes due to bureaucratic incompetence, sometimes due to betrayal by Afghan forces, sometimes due just to bad luck. Davis, Maida and Cardoselli tell this long, complicated and difficult story in fascinating detail, doing a great job of telling these stories in a direct and thoughtful manner.

Killing Geronimo

That's not to say that there's no editorializing in this book whatsoever. It's probably impossible to avoid any editorialization simply because of the way that the story is structured. For instance, the script directly states that one of the major breakthroughs in the hunt for bin Laden happened because American troops waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed an amazing 183 times, which I find hard to accept as someone who opposes the idea of America torturing our enemies.

The writers also take pains to explode a myth or two about the hunt for bin Laden. For instance, George W. Bush was routinely attacked for his statement that he didn't care about trying to capture bin Laden, but the book provides context for that comment, going into great detail in explaining the quote in a much more logical context that most everyone would cheer.

Killing Geronimo

Maybe the biggest weakness in this book is Cardoselli's art. He's asked to draw a whole lot of real people in this book, but his depiction of them is often off-model or looks weird. He has trouble drawing President Obama, for instance, with few of the images of Obama actually looking much like him. That sort of slip is surprising in a book like this, even more so because Cardoselli is much better at drawing President Bush earlier in the book. I mean, there can't exactly be any lack of photo reference for images of Barack Obama floating around the internet!

Killing Geronimo

Another interesting choice in this book has to do with the colors that Bill Key chooses to draw this book. Key chooses a dark palette for his coloring, suffusing his scenes with a darkness and intensity that fits the story well but which also serves to obscure and hide some of the figures that are shown. Key also often chooses to color an entire panel in one solid color – most often a bright red and bright green – that gives the book a strange, almost impressionistic element that works a bit against the grain of the more straightforward script and storytelling. It's a clever take that seems to emphasize different aspects of the story – green for the soldiers, blood red for Osama's viewpoint, and blue for the American leaders.

Killing Geronimo is a nice graphic documentary of one of the most important events in recent American history. It's a shame that the book has its flaws, but this book is still a fascinating look at an amazing story. And kudos to Bluewater Productions for creating a book that really shows the potential of the true-life books that they create.

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