War Is Boring: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World’s Worst War Zones by David Axe and Matt Bors
by Chris Singer
It’s only been over the last few years that I’ve developed a new appreciation for the graphic novel. Reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 got me hooked into reading more graphic novels, and I have learned they are a fantastic medium for non-fiction as well, with Greg Neri’s Yummy being one of the best I’ve ever read.
For David Axe, the author of War Is Boring, war was his life. For four years he covered military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Somalia, Chad and Lebanon. During that time as a correspondent for The Washington Times, C-SPAN and BBC Radio, David flew from war zone to war zone, getting to the story about the true victims of the world’s conflicts.
If you’re looking solely for the gritty details from someone up close and in the midst of real life combat situations, you’re going to be a bit disappointed. While there is some of that, this graphic novel is mostly about Axe’s inner conflict between what he describes as being “alternatively bored out of [his] mind, and completely terrified. It was strangely addictive.”
What gets shared in War Is Boring, is very similar to the soldier memoirs I have read. Axe gets an exhilarating rush from surviving artillery duels and the like just as many combat soldiers do. The longer he covers conflicts, the more his personal relationships deteriorate, and he seems lost and drained when he’s back stateside trying to reconnect with friends and family. When the phone rings with an assignment, Axe is almost relieved to be leaving his family and to be off chasing another dangerous story abroad.
The narrative is very compelling and jarring in a manner I didn’t expect it to be. Instead of being shaken by the details of the conflicts Axe covered, I found myself disturbed by his attitude and behavior which makes you believe he had a sort of death wish. Just as I found myself even more compelled to get to the heart of Axe’s inner conflict, the graphic novel was over and the reader is left with a bit of an empty feeling. Whether intentional or not, as I’ve thought about this, it actually makes a lot of sense. Unless we’ve been involved in an armed conflict, we’ll always fall short of a true understanding of what that is like. Perhaps Axe and other combat journalists know that better than anyone as they still traverse the bridge that separates the two worlds of civilian life and combat.