A Graphic Novel by Kevin Knodell, David Axe, and Blue Delliquanti (Illustrator)
Looking back at the US occupation of Afghanistan, one has to sit and wonder if it was all worth it – especially with what happened earlier this year in regards to the Taliban largely “winning” for lack of a better word. When looking at the near twenty year conflict as a whole, one could focus solely on politics, but that is done to death at this point and lacks the human element of a book such as our topic for today. The ‘Stan by Kevin Knodell, David Axe, and Blue Delliquanti is an older book by Dead Reckoning, a comics imprint of the US naval Institute Press, that tackles the occupation from the one viewpoint that really matters – the soldiers themselves that shed blood, sweat, and tears in the name of a cause that many hoped was bigger than any sabre rattling leader – Democracy.
“The ‘Stan is a collection of short comics about America’s longest war. Individual stories highlight different perspectives–one through the eyes of a Taliban ambassador and others through the eyes of Afghan and U.S. Army soldiers–but every account highlights the human element of war. The tales in this book–based on reporting by David Axe and Kevin Knodell and drawn by artist Blue Delliquanti–are all true and took place in roughly the first decade of the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan. While the stories are from the recent past, The ‘Stan is still very much about Afghanistan’s and America’s present–and likely their future.”
The ‘Stan is a collection of short comic vignettes, mostly three or four pages in length that detail various viewpoints on the War in Afghanistan. Each tells a wildly different story including a take on what it was like to be a woman in the front lines, the stress inflicted on IED removal crews, worrying about how trustworthy various “allies” were, and even shady arms deals to keep the war machine afloat. These stories appear to have been collected via interviews with numerous soldiers, all from different career paths within the military with varying rank. Some stories are tales of bravery, and others are stories of sadness, weakness, or even wrongdoing.
I tip my hat to the authors as they have gone a great length to ensure the whole war is looked at vs one part that only paints us in a good light ala most war propaganda. I especially liked that it spoke of the hardships of the Afghani people that were allied with the US, many of whom can never return home in fear of reprisal from The Taliban. With me working in Immigration, this part always hits hard with me, because US policy usually leaves these people “high and dry” when “the war is over”. Images of the recent Afghan airlifts can attest to the shaky ground those allegiances and guarantees of safety actually consist of.
Some stories are definitely better than others, and I felt like most of them ended far too abruptly, but what we do have is interesting and did it’s job of being a snapshot into what life was like in various points and times during the war. The artwork is reminiscent of some of the modern art styles that a lot of cartoons use nowadays, which is an interesting choice for a series of potentially violent tales. If the authors ever decided to do more of these, I’d absolutely love to read it, especially if they broadened it to other recent conflicts. If you are a fan of military comics and war biographies this is a somewhat different take on that genre, but it was very successful. Dead Reckoning always has an eye for great content, and I’m glad I’ve dipped back into some of their older material.
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