We have an international program at the college where I work, and the person in charge of the program has been ordering graphic novels set in foreign countries, like Persepolis, in an effort to make it easier for students to learn about foreign cultures. When I saw this title, and saw that it was published by Vertigo and featured, among other things, a flying prayer carpet (no kidding), I figured he must have ordered this one by mistake. Since I like Vertigo, and hadn’t read a graphic novel in a while, I gave it a shot. It turns out that the graphic novel, while steeped with middle Eastern mythology and supernatural events, still had a lot to say about the culture of its setting.
Thinking back on the story, I’m a little amazed at what the author did manage to include in this work of fiction. Aside from the supernatural elements of the story, the author also touched on serious subjects, such as the conflicts that exist between neighboring regions, the poverty that touches the population, and the governmental policies that drive the rebels. Granted, the story only touches on these subjects — for the most part, the story is about a stolen hookah that is the home of a djinn — but it’s interesting to see them mentioned in an otherwise throw-away story.
Story-wise, the graphic novel isn’t anything spectacular. The stolen hookah I mentioned is the property of a drug-running magician/gangster who wants it back, and the people involved in the story are a journalist, an American, an activist, and a soldier. Their journey takes them to many places, both real and supernatural, but the setting of the story is what makes it stand out, overall.
Anyone who reads much of the Vertigo line would probably like this story, but do realize ahead of time that it’s not the ground-breaking graphic novel that its admirers seem to suggest. At least, I don’t think so. But it’s definitely worth a read.