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Thursday, January 03, 2008


Palestine: The Special Edition -- Joe Sacco's particular brand of comics journalism has been one of the highlights of the artcomix revolution that has occurred over the past decade or so. In the 1970s and '80s, no one would have known what the hell to do with works like Safe Area Gorazde or The Fixer, but now that non-fiction comics are more widely read and talked about in the mainstream press, Sacco has been able to carve out a nice little niche that perfectly suits both his talents and his obsessive curiosity about why and how the awful things happen that happen in this world.

Palestine was one of the first works of Sacco's that I read, and certainly it made Sacco's reputation as a contrarian journalist of the first order, unwilling to swallow whole any government propaganda, and damned determined to get to the bottom of whatever story he was investigating, even if it put him in harm's way.

Fantagraphics Books has now released a deluxe version of Palestine that better presents the work in contexts both historical and artistic. Lengthy, generously-illustrated text pieces lead off the new hardcover edition, with Sacco providing first-person commentary on his experiences in the Middle East and how he translated them into comics form. He admits to the book's minor flaws (chiefly, that the pamphlet format the work was originally serialized in leaves for a somewhat choppy graphic novel reading experience) while giving genuine insight into the artistic choices he made in presenting the story as he experienced it, and I was interested to see how most of the visual decisions Sacco made were chosen to better present as objective a journalistic view as possible. As horrific as, say, a man being beaten and suffering a broken arm in the attack is, Sacco makes a convincing case that it's even more chilling when presented with as little visual melodrama as possible. Less is more, so much more so in the case of non-fiction on as serious and important a topic as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Sacco's work to reveal the truth about what is happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians remains as powerful and timely now as it was when originally published, and it deserves to be seen and experienced in this new, prestigious edition. Whether you're a longtime Sacco follower or just curious about what it is that he does that makes him so noteworthy among his fellow cartoonists, Palestine: The Special Edition is absolutely indispensable.



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