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Matt Fraction & Nathan Fox Depict Bin Laden’s Final Moments in Comic for ‘GQ’ [Webcomic]

Commissioned by GQ to create a comics story depicting the historic raid by U.S. special forces on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan that ended with the al-Qaeda leader’s violent death, writer Matt Fraction, artist Nathan Fox and colorist Jeremy Cox turned in something that’s quite a bit more thoughtful and sophisticated than one might expect given the potentially sensational subject matter. In “For God and Country,” these creators present Operation Neptune Spear as a harrowing mission of duty and purpose for the members DEVGRU/SEAL Team 6; and for Bin Laden, a terrifying moment of inevitability.”The original editorial directive was to tell the story from OBL’s perspective but, aside from not caring to get inside the man’s head, the more I researched that night, the more in awe I became of the DEVGRU/Seal operators who performed the raid – and the more I decided their story demanded telling, too,” wrote Fraction in an especially cool feature of the comic, which can be read now at GQ’s website. Many panels come with a small “info” graphic, and hovering over them with your cursor will activate text commentaries by Fraction (Casanova, The Invincible Iron Man) and Fox (Dark Reign: Zodiac, DMZ).

“For God and Country” is notable for daring to presume the internal monologue of Bin Laden just before his death. The terrorist leader behind the catastrophic attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001 is depicted in his final moments as variously resolved and terrified of what he recognizes almost instantly as the forces of fate catching up with him. Fraction’s take is dramatic and intriguing and seems to ring true, but the comic becomes truly visceral in its depiction of SEAL Team 6. We’ve heard so much about compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where Bin Laden successfully hid for many years, but it becomes startlingly real in the visual storytelling of Fox and Cox, who take us through the SEAL Team 6′s exquisite operation from the sky to the ground to standing right in front of objective Geronimo himself. Dramatized with the help of research and educated guesses, the action is exciting and emotional.

From Fraction’s commentary:

The Seal, approached most aggressively by Amal al-Sadah, shoots the women in the leg to incapacitate her and then — here it is — dove on top of the two of them. He assumed, in that instant, that both women were wired with suicide vests; that they needed to be removed from the path of the rest of his squad; that he himself would tackle them and cover them bodily; that they would in fact blow themselves, and him, up. Thus the Seal behind him would have a clear shot at objective Geronimo. Imagine that. I can stare at a damn Applebee’s menu for a half-hour and not be able to make a decision; this man, in the time it took his blood to make a trip from his heart and back into it, did that, made that choice. Astonishing.

The short piece concludes in a manner that some readers might find objectionable: a closeup of Bin Laden taking a bullet to the head. While that is indeed how the al-Qaeda leader was killed, the U.S. government’s refusal to release a photograph of Bin Laden’s body was a media controversy for a short time following the operation. Proponents of releasing the photo argued that doing so would squash conspiracy theories that Bin Laden was still alive and provide a kind of catharsis for Americans who’d seen 3,000 people murdered as a consequence of Bin Laden’s actions. Opponents of releasing the photo argued that such an image could inflame already bitter sentiment towards the U.S. in some Muslim countries. Others suggested that those who desired to see such a grisly photo were succumbing to ghoulish tendencies, and that a civilization such as ours ought not to take any form of satisfaction in the death of another human being.

Your mileage may vary, but it seems likely that Fraction speaks for many in his commentary on the strip’s final panel, in which he wrote, “In the end I wanted to see OBL face the ultimate sanction. Fifteen minutes trapped in the room where he knew he was going to die. F**k it. Maybe one day I’ll be more evolved.”

Read the whole “For God and Country” strip at GQ.

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