Saturday, January 30, 2010

Unknown Soldier #16

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Alberto Ponticelli

One thing that has nagged at me since the beginning of this series is the spectre of cultural appropriation. Dysart is telling a very African story in his reimagining of the classic DC war comics character. Moses may have been raised in America, but he is Ugandan at his heart, and the story that plays out in this comic is very specific to Uganda (although sadly, could be set in many other African nations with only minor changes to details). So, the voice in my head that is still in university asked, why should a white American be the one to tell this story?

The fact that the story is so well written, sensitive, and compelling did a lot to quiet that voice, much as taking the 'mato oput' helped quiet the voice in Moses's head. The inclusion of Congolese artist Pat Masioni also lent a certain authenticity to things as well.

Now, with this issue, Dysart seems to be addressing the issue of cultural appropriation head on when he has Moses meditate, throughout the book, on the commonality of peoples' facial expressions and emotions in the world. Perhaps he did not intend this acknowledgment of my concern, but it has helped erase it as unnecessary, in the face of such a good story.

And a good story this is. Moses has a confrontation with the Captain of the government forces in the camp, as he tries to discover the identity of the doctor's killer. He also speaks with the woman that is being accused of witchcraft, and begins to attempt to replace the camp's doctor, an almost impossible task after the theft of his medical supplies and the effects of the dry season on the camp's water. Oh, and there's a rhinoceros.

Ponticelli's art has the same textured look as the last issue, and I find every page more compelling than the last. This book has really become an incredible read, and is now one of my most anticipated monthly books.

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