Thursday, July 9, 2009

Barack The Barbarian #1

Be Warned! If ye be a liberal lacking a sense of humor regarding portrayals of Our President or are a conservative who thinks Sarah Palin is a viable candidate for any public office, you might just want to keep on walking past this review.

It is a little known fact that Barack Obama is a comic book fan. It is an even lesser known fact that his favorite book is Conan The Barbarian. I have seen some liberals deride this book - and a rash of other books depicting the new American President - as disrespectful.

While I think that argument could be won in the case of... oh say, President Obama's inclusion in an Army of Darkness parody poster or even an official Army of Darkness story, I think that My President would get a kick out of seeing himself depicted as a mighty warrior, ridden into a city of thieves, ready to wear the crown upon a weary brow.

I'd be lying if I said that this book was a great piece of subtle political satire akin to the writings of Voltaire, Swift or Twain. What I can say is that this is easily the best parody of Conan the Barbarian to be presented in comic form written since the early issues of Cerebus.

Most of the jokes are on par with the Mad Magazine movie parodies and political commentaries of old. It is however, a remarkably subdued parody of Robert E. Howard's Tower of the Elephant, with Barack Obama as Conan, Dick Cheney as the dark priest Yara and Hillary Clinton as the thief Taurus, who partners with a younger hero the better to circumvent the dangers before them.

It is a brilliant conceit on a metatextual level, with the pun equating the Republican Party to the evils of the Elephant Tower a brilliant one. To say nothing of Washington D.C. substituting for Arejun, City of Thieves. And all of this is conveyed within the frame-story of a storyteller in a post-historic future, telling children of the days of high adventure...

No, this book is not subtle. It is, however, as hilarious as any book with Dick Cheney wearing the headdress of the Thulsa Doom on the cover should be. And that, for my money, is enough.

I should note, however, that those concerned about this being a fair and balanced portrayal of the previous election should not worry. Much respect and honor is paid to John McCain (aka The Old Warrior) and there is a joke aimed squarely at the liberal side of the aisle, regarding how the amazons supporting Hillary abandon her after Hillary orders them to follow Barack's orders as if they were her own.

In fact, the only real people in the book who is made to look foolish are Sarah Palin and George W. Bush. And I suspect that's only because... well, they took all the other easy jokes so why not those jokes too? But in all seriousness, Larry Hama (yes, THAT Larry Hama) did a good job of creating a political parody that most Americans can enjoy.

I wish I could say that the same care went into the art but honestly, the pencils by Christopher Schons are a bit uneven, with caricatures and proportions varying wildly. The inks are also a bit too thick at times, with far-shots being too heavily shadowed.

Still, for those who are bold and looking for a good laugh, I can think of few books that can offer such a thing so freely.


  1. I SO wanted to buy this but it sold out. :)

  2. should have plenty. My local store is run by the same company and they had a few left at my store, last I checked.