Words by: Jérôme Tubiana
Art by: Alexandre Franc
Release Date: 1st March 2019
The latest offering from London based publisher SelfMadeHero, Guantánamo Kid tells the harrowing true story of Mohammed El-Gharani, who at age fourteen would become one of the youngest detainees of the hugely controversial Guantánamo Bay when he was illegally seized by soldiers in Pakistan shortly after 9/11.
With little more than the highly suspect word of two other Guantánamo inmates, El-Gharani sees eight years of his life stolen from him in an endless cycle of interrogations, punishment and abuse, before finally having his release secured by human rights group Reprieve in 2009.
Along the way El-Gharani forges strong relationships with many of his fellow inmates, with their shared faith giving him strength as he continually rebels against his jailers, protesting for better conditions and treatment, even at his own personal cost.
Written in collaboration with El-Gharani himself, Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre Franc deliver a stark, straightforward account of the youngster’s time in Guantánamo, never dipping into over-sentimentality and instead letting the shocking nature of the true events speak for themselves.
Tubiana does well in organising and presenting the story, with El-Gharani’s constant narration and mixture of humour, frustration and resignation making for a compelling read. Likewise, Franc – who previously worked with SelfMadeHero on “Agatha: The Real Life Story of Agatha Christie” – does a great job on the visual side of the book, with his soft, cartoony style leaning more heavily on the lighter moments of the story rather than dwelling on the horrors.
Perhaps the most powerful; part of the story for me is the matter-of-fact way in which El-Gharani recalls the atrocities committed against him. Torture and beatings happen so often as to almost become mundane, and the lengths he is frequently willing to go to in order to achieve even the slightest concession or improvement in conditions is deeply affecting.
SelfMadeHero continue to do a stellar job of bringing these compelling real-life stories to the graphic novel format, and while there’s definitely something genuinely moving about El-Gharani’s continued defiance and resistance to these almost unthinkable injustices, this book also serves just as much as a worrying, eye-opening look at what is a deeply insidious establishment.