Comic novels: Zahra’s Paradise & My Friend Dahmer
Apart from a teenage Judge Dredd addiction I never was into comic books but in the past 2 weeks I’ve read two: Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf.
Zahra’s Paradise is set in the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 troubled elections. At the peak of the violence I was monitoring twitter and other sites for Iranian and world reaction so many of the events described in the book hit home. But if you’re not a follower of the inner workings of Iranian power struggles then this book still works.
The drawings aren’t that sophisticated — fans of Alan Moore’s books and even early DC comics won’t be impressed by the rudimentary black and white inking — but as an introduction to the sheer hassle of daily life in Iran it’s a great tome. The story centres around a mother who tries to find her son after he fails to return home from a street demo. Bribes, humiliation and danger await around every corner as she peels away the layers of stifling bureaucracy. Not bad.
My Friend Dahmer is a tough one to put down. Not for the reasons you think. No grisly details of the serial killer’s exploits are in here, instead you get a very frank account of Dahmer’s school days from a guy who went to school with him. It’s quite clear that the author thinks that the system failed Jeffrey but he never quite strays over the line of saying that the killings were the state’s fault; it’s also obvious that Dahmer made the choices he made purely under his own volition and I’m pretty sure most people’s childhood featured kids from broken homes who hit the bottle too much too young yet still managed to avoid carving up hobos for kicks. Backderf has a nice turn of phrase and some of the pathos is achingly funny like when Backderf describes how Dahmer — future notorious serial killer — got a date for the prom but he, the author, didn’t. Backderf’s revelation that Dahmer got high school approval from mimicking spastic movements of people with cerebral palsy should be a warning to anyone thinking of mocking the disabled that this behaviour will put them in very bad company indeed.