cover image Paying the Land

Paying the Land

Joe Sacco. Metropolitan, $29.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-62779-903-4

Eisner-winner Sacco (Safe Area Goražde) travels to northern Canada to talk with members of the Dene, a First Nations group located largely in the Northwest Territories, in this arresting exploration of a community on the brink. Fracking is the hotly contested issue at hand; it brings money and jobs, but devastates the environment. Sacco delves deeper than the current debate, exploring the long, fraught relationship between the Dene, the Canadian government, and the land. The powerful middle chapters collect first-person stories of the atrocity haunting Sacco’s investigation: the mass forced separation of aboriginal children from their families to be “reeducated.” Separating young people from their communities, Sacco argues, robbed generations of identity and direction, as Sacco learns from the testimonies of Dene people from all walks of life, from tribal leaders and elders who grew up in close-knit nomadic tribes to a young man hunting his first caribou. Sacco’s densely composed, meticulous black-and-white art has grown even more realistic and carefully observed in this work, though he still presents himself as a caricature with buckteeth and Coke-bottle glasses. He wisely withdraws his presence to the background, allowing the Dene and other locals he interviews to take the spotlight, interspersing close-ups of faces with images of the breathtaking northern vistas. Sacco again proves himself a master of comics journalism. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi (July)