“Spy Blimp” by Dan Nott

There are questions in Defense Journalism that long-time beat reporters often leave unanswered, the grinding logic of the Pentagon forcing an idea into being that, to anyone outside the process, doesn’t make sense. For me, this is the F-35, a mess of a plane that stumbles weekly, will cost trillions, and exists because the Pentagon cannot imagine a future in which it doesn’t. There are other such projects that are just as absurd and yet still somehow inevitable, and in “Spy Blimp,” cartoonist Dan Nott tackles a project ripe for lampooning: modern American surveillance blimps

What is responsible for the aerostatus quo? A sense of inevitability and absurdity: the Pentagon wants from tethered blimps and what the Pentagon actually gets are not the same thing, but the blimps exist and the Pentagon uses them for whatever it can, as much a talisman of perpetual surveillance as an actual intelligence-gathering tool.

In 40 black-and-white pages, Nott conveys the modern history of the blimps, a gentle disclaimer “these stories are true, mostly” gracing end of the comic. The art is rich when detailing backgrounds and at its most cartoonish when it comes to the titular Spy Blimp(s). This is metaphor-made-plain, as the blimps themselves seem like a cartoonish intrusion on the bloody business of forever war: interdiction, homeland security, and counter-insurgency. The story works as a coherent whole, and at times the contrast between the absurd blimp and the grim business at hand could not be clearer.

Nott is selling print copies for $5 online. “Spy Blimp” included history I had never heard of, as well as one event I remember covering the day it happened, and I found it delightful and informative throughout. If you’re at all interested in weird Pentagon projects, blimps, or minicomics, this is worth picking up.

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I write about robots and war and the people in between.

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