Picture Perfect

Image: Dark Horse Comics

The battle for attention is at a fever pitch, a real-time contest between touchscreens, social media feeds and video games — among the many technologies vying for a place in our immediate consciousness and long-term thinking.

What is the overlooked secret weapon to break through and connect with someone? Comics.

As Non-Resident Senior Fellow Max Brooks (author of World War Z and Minecraft: The Island) wrote last year for West Point’s Modern War Institute, comics “are the only printed medium that still compete with digital distraction. The rest of the world knows this. Anyone under 30 knows this.”

This month, Brooks has updated his list of comics “that help readers explore human conflict” in a new post for the Modern War Institute. His original comprehensive list included titles, such as Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb and Zahara’s Paradise, about the Iranian uprising of 2009.

His latest list goes even further and compiles another 17 graphic novels, including Best of Enemies by Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B and Joe Kubert’s Fax from Sarajevo.

A person need not be a devoted collector to appreciate the powerful way that still, hand-drawn images allow for plenty of time to consider and reflect – allowing the progression of the story to occur at the intellectual and emotional tempo set by the reader, not an algorithm. Moreover, comics are easily shared as they can be read quickly, considered again or not, and then passed on again and again. While comics can be read on screens just as traditional books can, their paper form is satisfying in a uniquely tactile manner.

While fiction has begun to find a place on professional military reading lists, comics have yet to be adopted in the same way. But judging by the value of the works in Brooks’ reading lists, it is only a matter of time.

Read the latest list at the Modern War Institute website.