Iraq: Operation Corporate Takeover – Sean Michael Wilson

There is no doubt that corporate greed and malpractice is a worthy cause to publicise. A graphic novel would be an excellent way to do it too. Unfortunately this is only a half hearted attempt to use the medium.

It starts well with a man returning to his family in Iraq from England. He learns of the poor situation there and starts to write a blog. It then becomes statistics heavy, then we tangent off into Israel, and we no longer care about the characters involved. This is propaganda. Fair play for being intelligent, artistic and even necessary but it could have been so much more.

It is published by the campaign organisation War on Want and there are ten pages of text about them and the work they are involved in. As a recruitment tool this is certainly one of the best. As a graphic novel then this falls a little short. With such sophisticated titles as Exit Wounds and How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less showing us the subtle route to education and information we know it can be done.

The art is black and white and really good making great use of tiny panels of random details that would stick in your mind if you were a stranger visiting Iraq. There are some fine silhouettes too. The lettering changes when transitioning from fiction to facts and there is a nicely stylised sequence of a public demonstration.

Because of its important content it just scrapes in as a Thumbs Up!


Tomorrow: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets – Herge

3 thoughts on “Iraq: Operation Corporate Takeover – Sean Michael Wilson

  1. This was drawn to my attention, I’m the writer of the book. Thanks for the review, and a neat idea to do the 365. A few points please: you dismiss the Iraq book as propaganda, by which you seem to have the view that this is always a bad thing. The definition can be: “Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position.” In that way you are right, the Iraq book IS propaganda since the aim was to influence the reader regarding this cause. But that is a direct and honest aim, openly the case, so hardly something negative. Especially since the info it was based on was all from on the ground sources in Iraq, various reports, and all throughly researched as to accuracy.

    The point is surely that some people don’t like comic books that are didactic in purpose. Personally, I am fine with that style – if a comic has something to say, something to teach, then lets have it. I can read it, consider it and decide if I agree or not. I find the tendency to dislike didactic type comics to be a limitation. They are one more style, why neglect it? Rather like throwing out a tool from your tool box because you don’t like the colour. But it has its uses, so why not keep it in?

    You also mention Exit Wounds and say it did a better job. No, I would say it did a different job, though very well. That book is 172 pages, but ours is less than 70. The length is a big factor – complicated ideas like this need space. If you only have 70 pages then the caption, text heavy based approach is a useful one as a lot of info can be got in. Exit Wounds goes for a dialogue/visual approach and does it well. But we did not have the pages or time available for that approach. Its just a different approach.

    You also say “As a graphic novel then this falls a little short.” and that we don’t care about the characters. Well, this depends on what a graphic novel is. Since that term has no clear definition, nothing fixed, and is actually a very flexible and rather artificial tag, its hard to say what is and is not one. The Iraq book does NOT have a strong character focus, thats right. But deliberately so, because of the narration/caption approach taken and the didactic aim (although I personally feel we still managed a reasonable amount of characterisation in the small space we had). A focus on deep character development is only ONE way of doing comics, or of telling a story, not the only way. It may be the main way, the way you like best, or are most used to, but it’s not the only way. Again, why throw out those other ways, or downgrade them? They are tools, let use them.

    Thats it – happy reading!


    • Hi Sean.

      Thanks for taking the trouble to get in touch. I am always gratified when authors contact me – and it’s usually the smaller press British ones too – so good on ya. Your feedback was longer than my review!

      I think you are being a little defensive. I’m just here to read. The only reason I do reviews is to prove I have read them and to encourage others to read new works. I wouldn’t put too much store in what I say.

      I gave your book a Thumbs Up! This means I encourage other people to go out and read it. It wasn’t a bad review or a bad read either.

      Just to clarify a few points:

      Propaganda. I wasn’t using it in a derogatory sense. This book’s purpose is to spread the message of a particular organisation. I didn’t know this when I started reading the book as all the War on Want information is at the back. There is nothing on the front cover to give me any kind of clue that this wasn’t purely a fictional story. I certainly wasn’t dismissing it because it was propaganda just drawing people’s attention to it.

      If you look at my recent reviews of Incognegro, Yuri’s Day and Malcolm X, all of these works have powerful political messages but impart them within the story. They don’t have ten pages of plain text at the end that could have been used to tell the story. Garth Ennis’ 303 is another example of a political polemic entirely within the story.

      Graphic Novel tends to imply graphic as in pictures. A single page of prose that advances the reader’s understanding without endless talking heads would be fine. Alan Moore does this in Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. DC’s recent Animal Man has a one page mock newspaper article that serves as the perfect introduction. When the pictures stop altogether it ceases to be a graphic novel. That was my only point.

      I did care about the characters. I stopped caring about them when they ceased to be the focus of the narrative. When it stopped being about individual people and became about facts and figures I cared about those instead. When the blog was introduced the tone changed and my perception followed suit. Up till then it was all fine.

      I think you may have misunderstood some of my comments, particularly if you haven’t read any of my other reviews. I hope I have been able to explain things better. Thanks for taking the trouble to write and for inspiring genuine discussion.

      Whilst you are here would you like to recommend another work you have written and a work you have read so I can add them too my list.

      Many thanks.


  2. Thanks for your reasonable response (whoever you are, i dont see any name here). Yes, you said various positive things too, i see that. And I am not angry about the, in my opinion, incorrect things you noted. Just wanted to respond. Nae bother, pal… and to further respond to what you say here:

    – \”Propaganda. I wasn’t using it in a derogatory sense.\”
    It certainly seemed like it, but if you say not, then ok.

    – \”There is nothing on the front cover to give me any kind of clue that this wasn’t purely a fictional story.\”
    Thats a good point, and something like that may have been useful. But, i note that most documentary style books dont give any such notice. Perhaps the genre has become quite well known now, so publishers think that is unnecessary. Anyway, i will bear that in mind for the future.

    – \”They don’t have ten pages of plain text at the end that could have been used to tell the story.\”
    This seems on odd statement to me. Its quite common now to have text appendums in documentary or historical comic books. they are not wasted space that could have been used as comic visuals, they are doing a separate job, that adds to the total books value/info presented.

    I have not read any of your other reviews, thats right. But good luck with it, comics need more promotion, it all helps. As for my other ones i suggest two in order to see a very different kind of book by me: THE STORY OF LEE (NBM publications), which is a totally fictional book, character based and far more visual – perhaps more up your street. and also AX:ALTERNATIVE MANGA (Top Shelf Books), which i edited. a 400 page collection of indie style Japanese manga, that was selected as one of the top ten books of 2010 by Publishers weekly. \’its weird shit, man.\’

    Cheers, Sean

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s