I am not usually one to fawn over graphic novels; in fact, I have never read one all the way through. Something about the fact that they are really just comic books makes me feel eight-years-old. But this particular graphic novel appeals to me simply because it resonates with me in a profound way. This novel is not only a memoir for the every-infantryman of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but is a candid look into the experience and soul of said infantryman.
The White Donkey is written by Marine veteran Maximilian Uriarte, the famous author and illustrator of Terminal Lance, a comic strip devoted to the hilarious and often mundane experiences of the Marine Corps infantryman. He mentions in the afterword that this novel was his original intention, and that the comic strips that became so popular were actually birthed from the novel project.
One of the most incredible things about this novel is that Max took it on entirely by himself. The fact that it took five years to complete is a hint as to how fine-tuned it is. Every drawing, every story, every word is an accurate representation of the real thing. As a Marine who experienced many of the things depicted in the novel, I was impressed during the entire read.
The story follows Abe and Garcia, two boots (green Marines) that fuse an inseparable bond as they journey from rigorous training and typical Marine Corps monotony to a gravely anticipated deployment to Iraq during the height of the conflict. At the core of all the shenanigans and dangerous adventures is Abe’s search to find what he’s looking for in life, which is the reason he enlisted in the first place. From front to back, this graphic novel is a picturesque rendition of the infantryman’s experience, both literally and thematically.
Not only is it relatively quick, it will give you plenty of laughs and even tug at your emotions, all the while maintaining an easy-to-read style with expertly drawn illustrations. I would recommend The White Donkey to any Marine, any service member, or any average person just wondering what it would be like to live a day in the life of an infantryman during Operation Iraqi Freedom.