Palestine: The Special Edition by Joe Sacco

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Palestine: The Special Edition
By Joe Sacco
Fantagraphics Books

Joe SaccoI–perhaps somewhat regrettably–spent the vast majority of a recent review of Pantheon’s Complete Persepolis railing on the publisher’s seeming disregard for the importance supplemental material. It seems like a relatively minor offence, surely not one worth of devoting the better part of a five-hundred-plus word review to, but in terms of a book of that caliber, where seemingly every (well-deserved) praise has already been heaped upon the work, another glowing review would surely read as something of an exercise in futility.

Looking for a point of comparison—a reissue done right—didn’t require much effort. Sitting next to the book in the mail stack was Fantagraphics’ upcoming Palestine: The Special Edition. For everything that can be said about the publisher, one thing seems for sure: with the possible exception of Drawn & Quarterly, no other major comics company seems so devoted to the notion of presenting the form as art. Fantagraphics has long committed itself to compiling beautiful reissues of the medium’s seminal works. The company’s recent releases of Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, and Peanuts are all downright stunning.

First appearing in serialized form just under a decade-and-a-half ago, Joe Sacco’s Palestine is certainly something of a relative newcomer, compared to the usual variety of work that gets the special Fantagraphics’ reissue treatment, and while it can certainly be convincingly argued that the book hasn’t had anywhere near the impact on the form as the aforementioned trio, Palestine’s influence can certainly be felt on the books that have emerged in the past decade, an influence that will likely continue to strengthen, as artists look towards Sacco’s seminal work in their efforts to re-imagine what can be done with the autobiographical comic and reassess the ability of the medium to shape the world around us.

Therein lies the true value of this reissue. Fantagraphics—perhaps with a little bit of tongue in their cheek—refers to the book as the “criterion” version of Palestine. Its an apt assessment, given the added insight the new edition offers into Sacco’s creative process. After the initial introduction, penned by the late intellectual, Edward Said, for the 2001 edition of the book, Sacco offers up the new “Some Reflections on Palestine,” which describes the author’s journey from failed journalist to comics pioneer.

The remainder of the supplemental material explores the Sacco’s creative process through new text, notebook excerpts, outtakes, and comparisons between still photos and final panels, all of which will surely prove immensely valuable both to artists and more casual fans of Sacco, simply looking for more insight into the writer’s major work.

At $29.95, the book is certainly a touch pricier than a good deal of graphic novels on the market, but given the beautiful hardcover packaging and the indispensable nature of the bonus material, Palestine: The Special Edition is an unquestionably worthy purchase for both first time readers and those who already have a tattered copy of the first edition sitting on their bookshelves.

–Brian Heater