The White Donkey: Terminal Lance

(text & illus.). Little, Brown. Apr. 2016. 288p. ISBN 9780316362832. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316362849. F
[DEBUT] Two-time Iraq War veteran Uriarte (Terminal Lance webcomic) wants to show how a soldier returning home from war can turn suicidal. In this story, the author's "hero" is Abe Belatzeko, who seeks what's missing in his life in the marines. As a "boot" newbie likely to finish out his enlistment as a lowly lance corporal ("Terminal Lance"), he's submerged in acronyms, baroque hierarchies, conflicting and purposeless orders, physical discomfort, and perpetual danger. Soon alienated and then horrified by the meaningless, casually misdirected violence, and amorphous goals of the war, he attributes the loss of the one relationship he cares about to his own negligence. Uriarte's art shows spare realism, with sometimes minimal differences among faces—which accentuates the disorientation. The single color wash varies by setting and mood.
VERDICT Spiked with bitter and obscene humor, this debut and first-ever graphic novel about the Iraq War from a veteran reveals the cynical tedium of daily life in combat and how voluntary service can lead to an existential crisis of self-blame. Compelling reading for news watchers and would-be enlistees, older teens and up, and for veterans and their families and caregivers. See also Oliver Morel and Maël's Walking Wounded: Uncut Stories from Iraq.

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