The 2009 Oscar for Best Film went to Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, a film made from the premise that war is a drug, something some participants become addicted to and need higher doses of. Her film focused on a soldier addicted to the thrill. War is Boring, a new graphic novel memoir from reporter David Axe and artist Matt Bors, covers similar themes as experienced by a war correspondent.
Axe reports from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chad, Darfur and more, paying for much of it out of pocket. And every time he runs out of money and returns home, he can't wait to get back, though he can't really put a finger on why. His friends and family tell him he has a death wish. He doesn't completely disagree.
A great many war memoirs have been released in the last decade, many of which have been more interesting or insightful. In all of them, it can be difficult to separate the story from the author. War is Boring, is no different, and that is its central problem.
It's difficult to care about Axe or his struggles as he alienates everyone he knows for their ignorance, yet acknowledges his own. He insinuates he does the job to help, especially at the end when he travels to Africa to shed light on genocide in Darfur, but he genuinely loves going to war. Even the title is snide. The book is a slim 124 illustrated pages, barely enough time to address the full range of experiences of one war zone, let alone six. Tim O'Brien has devoted nearly his entire literary career to one tour in Vietnam.
By nature, a memoir often lacks the balanced perspective found in novels. It is intended to be a narrow personal view. And in that respect, War is Boring works. But though most of the story takes place in war zones, it isn't about war as much as what war does to people when they return home. And it's far less gripping to read than it is frustrating, not from being clunky or poorly created but because aside from Axe being unlikable, there is little unique about his story.