Obscure Comic of the Month is a monthly feature which takes a detailed look at little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.
War-Fix by David Axe and Steven Olexa – ComicsLit/NBM 2006
Contains Mild Spoilers
Weened in his youth on scenes of war in the evening news, a small town journalist named David discards life as he has known it to report on the war in Iraq. But what outwardly appears to be nothing more than a dangerous job is in reality a strange personal quest, where David is both a voyeur and participant in the condition which intrigues, frightens, excites and consumes him – violence.
War-Fix is another book I picked out of the indy section of Worlds Apart Liverpool back in the day. It looked pseudo-intellectual and was cheap, perfect for my developing tastes. I'd never even really heard of Joe Sacco at the time (And to be honest I still haven’t looked into enough of his stuff), so this was my first tastes of what could be described as the war journalism genre.
Unlike Sacco and his contemporaries however, War-Fix is a purely fictitious tale. It's plot is immediately familiar to anyone who's seen the film The Hurt Locker, though following a journalist rather than a bomb disposal expert.
It's a story about war addiction and the disconnect from reality it provides. Despite appearances the book is very short. Pages tend to contain no more than five lines of dialogue apiece. Some pages none at all. You could get through the book in less than twenty minutes. That's isn't a flaw though. The story is more concerned with communicating it's point through visuals that it is through words.
Steven Olexa's art is very similar to that of Vertigo mainstay Jock. For most of the book he disregards more traditional panel structures, tending to let one scene melt into the next. This is all part of the stream of consciousness storytelling on behalf of the book's main character David. David isn't particularly complex, you know who he is and what he wants right from the get go, but instead he serves to communicate to us our social, and by extension personal, obsession with war.
War-Fix manages to avoid becoming dated by exploring war as a whole. While it takes place during the occupation of Iraq it'll also touch on other conflicts. Croatia, China during WW2 and the medieval battlefields of the past. Indeed, it also takes a nuanced look at some of the lesser known participants of the war, such as Nepalese contractors or Georgian irregulars. The story may take place in one specific war, but in it's way, it is about all wars.
The storytelling includes quite a lot of nice touches. There is heavy use of visual symbolism and juxtaposition with the text. One stand out moment near the end involves David taking photographs of civilian casualties, where for one panel he's portrayed holding a gun rather than his camera. This shows him, and indeed ourselves, to be just as complicit in these crimes as the soldiers and combatants.
It's not all perfect however. Most of the text is rendered in a faux-handwritten font, making it difficult to read at points. It's a head bangingly stupid decision that damages what is otherwise a tight delivery.
War-Fix gets in, makes it's point and finishes up without outstaying it's welcome. I think it cost me about a fiver at the time and it's hard to argue with that price for what you get.
NBM Publishing is still going strong, apparently, and David Axe likewise is still keeping himself busy. Couldn't really find much on Steven Olexa though. They're still selling a wide range of comics, War-Fix included. It's a little bizarre to say the least, I've been to quite a few cons and expos over the years now and I've never seen them promoting. I remember checking out the ComicsLit range back in the day. I'd kind of assumed after all these years they'd probably have gone bust.
So War-Fix is a nice little ditty with an important point to make. General fiction comics tend not to have so wide an audience and it's kind of easy to get buried under the giants of the genre. It's hard to say if War-Fix deserves any recognition for that, but it is a moving read. It'd be great in a classroom or school library.
And in the end, it also kind of got to make a point three years before Hurt Locker did.
Jack Harvey 2015. War-Fix (c) 2006 David Axe and Steven Olexa. Images used under Fair Use.