Refresh, Refresh is the comic that completely derailed the Comic-A-Week project. It’s not the only reason I had to take a break. It was April, after all. Life is always so busy in April, between holidays, exams, and working out summer plans, but you would think that would mean I would be reading more comics, not less. The last comic I read though was Refresh, Refresh and I’m so conflicted about it, I have been letting it stew for a few weeks before writing about it or reading any other comics.
Refresh, Refresh is about a group of boys who all have fathers in the military. The stories take place in the years after September 11th when the US was at war with Afghanistan and Iraq. The town the boys live in is small and there aren’t a lot of opportunities, so many of the young men are off at war. Some don’t come back, others return injured.
The comic begins when the boys are seniors in high school and they start a fight club. But the fight club is really only the beginning of the violence in this comic. There is nothing hopeful, beautiful or good about this story. What I’m truly grappling with is if there should have been.
I saw on Goodreads someone claiming that they didn’t like this comic because it glorifies the military. I think it does the exact opposite. The military is the driving force actively destroying the lives of these boys and their families. I should rephrase that: it’s not the military, it’s war. It’s the violence that’s such an intrinsic and natural part of their life that is destroying everything beautiful in their world.
If you can’t tell, I had a strong, visceral reaction to this comic. It made me sick to my stomach, quite literally. But… I was reading a review at books i done read of The Things They Carried, one of my favorite books of all time, and I was reminded of this:
A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie.
You will probably have a strong, visceral and negative reaction, like I did, to Refresh, Refresh. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a true war story. Thanks Raych and Mr. O’Brien for that reminder. I also didn’t realize that this was originally a text-only short story. That makes a lot of sense, but I think this works well as a comic, too.
Reading Rants also has a post about the comic Refresh, Refresh. Do you? Include your link in the comments and I’ll add it here.