Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli

Maximilian Uriarte. Little, Brown, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-44896-3
Former Marine Uriarte (Terminal Lance), who served two tours of duty in Iraq, follows up his semiautobiographical The White Donkey with this tense graphic novel set in present-day Afghanistan. A Marine squadron arrives in cold, mountainous Badakhshan on a mission to break up the Taliban’s interference in the local gemstone trade. They face reticence from the villagers and Taliban patrols who attack on horseback—and the overall moral ambiguity of trying to fix what years of interference from America, Britain, and Russia have wrought—as well as internal threats of racism, sexism, and egotism among their own ranks. The story centers on no-nonsense African-American marine Sergeant King, whose innate humanity doesn’t prevent him from committing acts of shocking violence. Uriarte lends a gritty sense of realism to the action, which helps surmount some over-familiar tropes playing through the script. Uriarte’s drawing is labored at times—it’s particularly hard to tell the armored-up characters apart—but his storytelling is assured and often thrillingly cinematic. The page count gives the narrative room to breathe, with wordless images of tiny human figures against the vast mountains and a bravura ending. This visceral war story reinforces the difficulty of decisions by forces fighting across blurred lines. Agent: Katherine Boyle, Veritas Literary. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/12/2020
Release date: 05/12/2020
Genre: Comics
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