Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Fixer by Joe Sacco

Sacco is possibly the world's only full-time investigative cartoonist; he's the author of Palestine and Safe Area Gorajde, both of which were book-length works in comics form, reporting about war zones.

The Fixer is not entirely unlike a sequel to Safe Area Gorajde; it's the story of a return visit to Sarajevo Sacco took in 2001, mixed in with Sacco's memories of the title character from his 1995 travels in the disintegrating Yugoslavia, and that character's tales of his own life, mostly during the civil war of the early '90s.

The Fixer is a man called Neven, who claims to have been a sniper in the Yugoslav People's Army during the '80s (though others mildly doubt that), and definitely was part of a loyalist militia during the early days of the civil war. By the time Sacco got to Sarajevo in 1995, Neven had been demobbed and was working for foreign journalists. That's what a "fixer" is -- a man who connects journalists with stories, for a price.

So The Fixer has some history of the war as it affected Sarajevo, and some of Neven's personal history, wrapped up in the frame story of Sacco trying to find Neven again in 2001, when the war -- and the need for fixers -- was long over. It's on a smaller scale than Sacco's other major stories, but it's a long mature Sacco work, which is a good thing. And the smaller scale also means that there are fewer appalling bits of war to deal with -- though, as always, there are some, so I warn those with overly rosy views of the world to stay away from Sacco.

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