The unrest in the Middle East of late has proven that the romantic notion of the intrepid reporter running off to war is alive and well. Even in articles and newscasts that strive for nuanced approaches, we see a character we love to believe in and rarely challenge: the selfless journalist reporting or tweeting from the fray, making sure the news reaches the rest of the world. Which is why the war correspondent David Axe’s new graphic novel War is Boring: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World’s Worst War Zones, with vivid art by Matt Bors, is worth taking note of. The title is taken from the popular Web site Axe founded as a platform for “a collective of citizen journalists” whose devotion to their work (“We are expeditionary, traveling to conflict zones whenever possible, on our dime”) suggests that they do not find war at all boring. But in this novel, Axe plays up the boredom angle, portraying himself as an adrenaline junkie who would rather face the barrel of a machine gun than his own reflection.
Axe brackets the book with his time spent as a reporter in Chad. “The thing I needed most was to do something that wasn’t for myself,” he writes, but he admits to buying into the notion that “going off to war would make me smarter, sexier and happier”—and is angry with himself when he realizes it doesn’t. Axe is increasingly bored, sometimes with war but more with the “stale beers” and mendacious conversations he encounters during trips back to the U.S. Though a sense of bleakness is palpable in passages describing stints in Iraq, Lebanon, East Timor and Somalia, none convey it as strongly or succinctly as a panel in which Axe’s colleague approaches him at a bar in D.C. and asks “How was Afghanistan?” To which Axe replies without looking back at him, “Awesome, dude.”
by DAVID AXE