Webcomics Review: Shooting War

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It is difficult for me to read any comic about a reporter fighting against dystopian surroundings without drawing comparisons to Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan, and Shooting War is no exception.

We've got our bitter but still fundamentally idealistic hero out to try and expose the corruption that has seeped into his world. We've got our direct confrontations with gruesome scenes. We've got the plucky girl side-kick whose appearances are always rife with sexual tension.

But it is the differences, not the similarities, that really help me understand what Shooting War is shooting for. The strip is set in the near future, rather than far enough away to let the reader hold on to an illusion of distance from the scenes they are watching play out in front of them. We get to see very direct commentary on very recognizable situations in the here and now. This may not be our future, but it has the potential to be close enough that the reader can't help but sit up and pay attention.

Much like Jimmy Burns himself, the star of the story. Jimmy Burns wants to be an activist. Jimmy Burns wants to make a difference. Jimmy Burns wants the world to change, and wants to be one of the people to change it.

But right now, Jimmy Burns is just a bystander. He reacts to events, he records them. He isn't really a journalist yet, just a reporter. For most of the story, it is other characters who move the story forward. Abu Adallah, leader of the terrorist organization known as the Sword of Mohammed, who would bring "peace" back to the land - by uniting his brothers against all infidels. Lt. Colonel John Crowley, also known as Crash, wants to uphold the word of Christ and end the terrorist threat, whatever it takes.

Abdallah and Crash are both men of intense belief. They believe in their mission and the rightness of their cause. That doesn't make their cause right, mind you - but the strength of their beliefs is what makes them such strong leaders, as well as such strong figures in the story itself.

Jimmy is a bit lacking in the belief department. He knows what he doesn't believe in corporations running rampant as they conquer the world. A media that is more concerned with image and propaganda than with truth and awareness. But knowing what is wrong with the world doesn't mean he truly knows how to make it right - and when Jimmy is thrown into the heart of the war, it might just be the thing a self-righteous momentarily famous blogger needs to figure out what he's really about.

But it isn't until Chapter 11 than things start to change. After 10 chapters of his being led around by others, Jimmy starts to take things into his own hands. Stepping out of being a perpetual hostage/bystander/witness, he displays a bit of cleverness, and demonstrates not just willingness to seek out the danger of the story, but also the ability to track it down himself.

Jimmy doesn't really have a plan once he gets to the action, and is once again stuck following the will of others. And when Abu Adallah and Lt. Colonel Crowley duke it out, Jimmy spends his time simply getting out of there.

It's a start, though. Jimmy showed that he could go a step beyond mere reporter, and may even have been the one who arranged the confrontation, despite coming out of the story with his reputation going down the crapper. It will be hard to learn more without picking up the continuation of the story, coming out in print as an upcoming graphic novel.

The online comic did what it set out to, though - it started the story. And while it may be easy to simply read it as a story about the state of our world, it is also a story about Jimmy Burns and his interaction with the state of his world. The online strip leaves the reader wanting to find out exactly where Jimmy's story is going, and that is certainly a sign as to its success.

He's not a hero yet - but he's working towards it. Which, really, makes for a much better story in the end.

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