The Fixer by Joe Sacco
Reviewed by Bareesh
I'm tired of the DC and Marvel monopoly of RS' back page. But what's to do, people automatically recall either of the two anytime the word “comics” is mentioned. People go along without ever finding brilliant graphic novels that have the misfortune of being indie.
Joe Sacco is a journalist and a cartoonist. He decided to combine his two jobs at some point in time, which resulted in reporting through graphic novel form with smart political commentary and brilliant characters that he met through his job. In his masterpiece of comix journalism, Safe Area Gorazde, he depicted the lives of civilians caught up in Bosnia's three-way ethnic war back in the early 90s (hit Wikipedia and brush up on your history, kids). In this sequel of sorts, The Fixer, Sacco returns to Sarajevo to look for his most valuable trove of information when making Safe Area Gorazde, the only man that would talk to him, a hard-drinking ex-army man named Neven - nicknamed The Fixer for his ability to arrange anything you need, for the right price.
Neven is morally ambiguous to say the least. Part war hero, part storyteller and part tour guide to the relics of war, he is determined to squeeze some profit from his memories before reconstruction begins and foreign journalists lose interest. The Fixer chronicles the rise of paramilitary warlords and their eventual fall as they were overcome with corruption, bloodlust and delusion. Sacco (always a character in his comic books) plays the weedy, naive Westerner as Neven chain-smokes his way through a story of war and betrayals. Like Sacco in the comic book, the reader never really knows how much of Neven's story is true.
The artwork is monochrome, simplistic; done with fluid penciling and a caricature styling almost. There are tiny metaphors hidden through the art (such as when Sacco wanders through a Sarajevo cafe and all the people have their eyes closed). The artwork is unusual, it comes from a sect of comic book cartoonists who has chosen to reject the superhero ethos and go with their own, more cartoony style.
Many people might not like the artwork much (this writer personally didn't and thought it was too simplistic and unrealistic), but Sacco tells us a story that will captivate you, filled with twists and turns at every page. Sacco doesn't do flashy but his artwork only adds to Neven's story, which is fantastical, sombre and dark; and how much of it is truth, you never found out.
If you want something less costumed, give it a try.