cover image Invisible Wounds: Graphic Journalism

Invisible Wounds: Graphic Journalism

Jess Ruliffson. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (184p) ISBN 978-1-68396-190-1

Ruliffson’s provocative debut profiles 12 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with sensitivity and unflinching honesty. The subjects represent a range of military experiences, including a gay combat soldier who first served in the closet under “don’t ask don’t tell” before deciding “I’m fighting for this country as who I am”; a Vietnamese American platoon leader who felt that “when 9/11 happened, I was relieved I didn’t have to be the bad guy anymore”; an airman who had trouble accessing veterans’ services after his gender transition; and a lieutenant colonel who was punished by the upper brass after reporting her assault by a fellow officer. Most of those profiled express disillusionment with the wars they risked their lives for, recalling how high-minded plans for counter-insurgency and rebuilding were abandoned when the fighting began in earnest. All of the subjects struggled to rejoin civilian life (“Somehow between Iraq and home I had become a raw nerve”), but many have found meaning in creative work, helping communities, or getting back to nature. Ruliffson’s sketchy artwork, colored in bold limited palettes, captures the vets’ personalities in broad strokes; she has a gift for summing up a moment in a well-chosen image or gesture. This vital collection of veterans’ narratives brings home the fact that there’s no such thing as a typical war story. (Aug.)