Notes from a Defeatist by Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco's Palestine was one of the "graphic novel" events of recent years. A wonderful, scathing, searching investigation and contemplation on the Palestine-Israel conflict it showed (like Art Spiegelman's inspired Maus stories) that comics could communicate issues of the upmost human importance at a level of fully engaged (and engaging) intelligence. Notes From a Defeatist is a collection of Joe Sacco's earlier work ("[p]art documentary travelogue, part satirical biography, part satire pure and simple" it says on the back) and, because of that, does not have the sustained power of a work like Palestine. It does, however, contain excellent early "political" work - When Good Bombs Happen to Bad People is a considered meditation on the Libyan bombing consisting almost of telling quotes from "military men, politicians, scientists, bureaucrats, and the US popular media" (Sacco says, in a useful introduction to these pieces that, "I am concerned with those who help shape the use of the aerial weapon - their tone, their detachment, their propensity to escalate"); More Women, More Children, More Quickly a child's view (in fact, Sacco's mother Carmen) of Italian and German aerial attacks on Malta duing the second world war. But this is a very different beast from Palestine and should be judged accordingly: it is uneven, as many collections are, but, equally, it is a fine way into Sacco's world.
Coming off like Robert Crumb happily stripped of the misogyny and crudity, Sacco is a comic artist who demands attention. Like the awesome Palestine, Notes From a Defeatist is "required reading" for anyone interested in what comics are up to today.