Ted Rall, Bill Maher, . . NBM, $15.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-1-56163-325-8

Rall (2024) is a talented comics artist and a contrarian journalist who has challenged what he perceives to be sacred cows by calling Pulitzer Prize–winning comics artist Art Spiegelman overrated and labeling some September 11 widows as golddiggers. This book records his experiences during a trip to Afghanistan during the U.S. bombing. It includes prose columns Rall wrote for the Village Voice and a graphic novel that captures his talent for smart, ironically comic observation even in hellishly dangerous circumstances. A longtime visitor to and commentator on Central Asia, Rall knows his way around war-torn nations. He journeys by convoy with about 45 journalists, separating himself from them by his determination to travel simply and cheaply. And what a trip: eight journalists are killed by the time he reaches eastern Afghanistan. He must deal with finding a warm place to sleep, keeping his phone charged ($40 a day) and the constant worry of being killed by Afghani soldiers or U.S. bombs. Rall slams victory claims in a war in which adversaries simply change sides when they lose. He suffers a procession of Afghanis out to hustle him for money and lampoons the media for covering the conflict as if it were another celebrity murder trial. But Rall's claims about clueless media reporting aren't fully true (there were regular U.S. press accounts of both civilian casualties and violent ground conditions), and his diatribes about U.S. military action suggest that, to be valid, every war effort must be perfectly executed. Nevertheless, his book joins Joe Sacco's accounts of life in Palestine and Bosnia as a tremendous contribution to comics war journalism. (Aug.)