erasing clouds

Book Review: Joe Sacco's The Fixer

by anna battista

Joe Sacco first arrived on the graphic novel scene in the early '90s with his work Palestine (Fantagraphics; published in Great Britain by Jonathan Cape in 2003), an account of the situation in the occupied territories in comic form which won him in 1996 the American Book Award. Sacco also used his typical style, often defined as "comics journalism," in Safe Area Goradze (Fantagraphics, 2000), in which the author, who, between 1995 and 1996, spent four months in Bosnia, recounted his experiences in Gorazde, a UN "safe area" repeatedly attacked by Serb forces, and, partially, also in Notes from a Defeatist (Fantagraphics 2003; Jonathan Cape, 2003), a sort of anthology of his best comic stories and graphic novelettes.

For his new work The Fixer (Drawn and Quarterly Publications, 2003; Jonathan Cape, 2004), Sacco is back in Bosnia, looking for his old time friend Neven. When the story opens we are in 2001, but after a few pages, the author takes us back to a few years earlier, to tell us how he met by chance Neven in the dark lobby of a hotel. Army veteran Neven had at that time started to work as fixer, often accompanying foreign journalists to the war front for money, selling them human tragedies or simply supplying them with prostitutes. Through Neven's tales the readers will follow the events of the war in the Balkans and will also meet various warlords, gangsters, criminals and soldiers. Throughout the pages of this graphic novel, readers will also discover, together with a na´ve Sacco, that some of the tales Neven boasts about might be simple lies, but might, at the same time, be true.

Like for Safe Area Goradze and Palestine, Sacco's attention to details in The Fixer strikes the reader, as well as his, by now famous, way to subjectively describe people and events. The Fixer is another remarkable work of comics journalism, another insightful reportage in which there are many lessons to learn, about friendship, wars, violence and humanity.


Issue 27, October 2004

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