cover image Zahra’s Paradise

Zahra’s Paradise

Amir and Khalil. Roaring Brook/First Second, $19.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-59643-642-8

This collected web comic resembles Persepolis in its loathing for the current Iranian regime, but these creators (anonymous for political reasons) focus their story via an urgent crisis within one family, as young Mehdi’s mother and brother search for him after he vanishes during the government’s crackdown on protests against fraudulent national elections in 2009. Now no one in authority will admit knowing what happened to him. From the testimony of the angry but fearful people Medhi’s friends encounter, from cab drivers to former aristocrats, it’s clear that Mehdi is just one of a disaffected majority whose existence the people in power must deny, since they can maintain the official version of righteousness only by rape, torture, and murder. The authors successfully generalize from one case to the dreadful condition of all Iranians. Medhi’s mother is named Zahra, and “Zahra’s Paradise” is also a huge cemetery near Tehran; the woman’s graveside rant condemns everyone who won’t stand up for justice. Khalil’s art is a mix of confident caricature, clean cartoony panels, and montage that’s remarkably adept at capturing all kinds of action and emotion. The end effect is a powerful look at a people’s struggle that goes beyond politicized tropes. (Sept.)