cover image Freedom Hospital: A Syrian Story

Freedom Hospital: A Syrian Story

Hamid Sulaiman, trans. from the French by Francesca Barrie. Interlink, $20 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-62371-995-1

This ambitious but flawed graphic novel, by an author who escaped war-torn Syria, portrays how a group of physicians, patients, and their friends keep an underground hospital running, evading the Assad-backed army. Resourceful young Yasmin runs the hospital after she and Sophie, a documentary filmmaker, are shuttled past the militarized Turkish border to undertake their mission. Romance subplots blossom, between Yasmin and charismatic doctor Fawaz, as well as between army deserter Haval, who assists at the hospital, with Zahabiah, who comes from a conservative family. After a bombing, former patients rise to new roles in the revolution, like taxi driver Walid, who assumes for himself the title of prince and gains followers, including Salem, who suffers from mysterious memory loss, but takes up arms to follow this new leader. The daily death toll is an expository device used to haunting effect, but other facts are redundant, like defining in a text box the Russian origin of each weapon supplied to the army. The apparent heavy reliance on photo and video reference in drawing scenes leads to an awkward art style, and characters move stiffly, with masklike expressions. A clumsy sense of composition throughout gives the work an unrooted sense of place, unfortunate for a story about very concrete devastation. (Mar.)