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Comic Relief

Witty political satire takes an underrated form places it's never been before

The year is 2011: John McCain is president, the war on terror slogs on, and the mainstream media officially refer to suicide bombings as "homicide bombings." Meanwhile, back in the 'hood, Williamsburg's last surviving bodega has been declared an American Apparel outlet by eminent domain, a New York magazine cover line asks "When Did Staten Island Get So Cool?," and hipster Jimmy Burns, hottie hero of the indie-media scene, has just landed a corporate news gig vlogging live from the trenches of interminably occupied Iraq. Such are the witty, well-laid premises of Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman's Shooting War (smithmag.us/shootingwar), an "online graphic novel" now heading into its fourth more or less weekly chapter. And if those premises haven't quite congealed yet into a narrative of novelesque grandeur, that's OK. There's time yet, and besides, the pleasures of Shooting War may ultimately derive not so much from the graphic novel as from that overhyped form's underrated bastard brother: the comic strip.

Ever since comic-book theorist-artist Scott McCloud discovered and extolled the "infinite canvas" of the web page, comic geeks have been waiting for the Internet to revolutionize the medium. And quietly, it has, though not always in the ways aesthetes might expect. Principally the Web's effect has been not so much to explode the traditional comics page as to open up the form to outsiders and amateurs. But Lappé, a lefty print and broadcast polemicist, and Goldman, co-author of the political graphic novel Everyman, are indie professionals, and their innovation, so far, lies elsewhere. Sure, the Web's a great democratizer, but it's an excellent serializer too, and the light-handed but searing political satire of Shooting War is taking the Sunday comic strip places it could never have gone before. Grab the RSS feed now, and go there with it.

 
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