This graphic novel begins in The City of Victory from the perspective of several characters. Ashraf is attempting to transport drugs hidden in a truckload of beets. A wounded Israeli soldier finds herself in Cairo a after a firefight near the border. Shaheed, an American teenager, is stranded in the city when his flight to Beirut is cancelled. An Egyptian journalist and a young American journalist are kidnapped by thugs looking for Ashraf. Believe it or not all of these characters along with a Jinn (genie), a magician and a slew of bad guys are seamlessly intertwined in Wilson's story.
The adventure begins when a piece of drug paraphernalia that actually houses Shams the Jinn goes missing. Ashraf has to find the teen he sold it to in an attempt to placate some mystical thugs and save his kidnapped friends. The story seems almost straight-forward for a while but then takes too many twists and turns to note.
Wilson has injected a lot of things to think about in her debut graphic novel including some really enjoyable humor. Fear is one of the main themes, both as its use as a political tool and as a weapon evil uses to combat the heroes of the story. The characters also frequently move from our world to places like the Undernile, forcing them to overcome barriers through thought and reason not just brute force, though that is also used.
Wilson deftly makes her characters seem real despite surreal circumstances. The crux of the story is how complicated it can be in the modern world to do the right thing and make it a better place. While trapped in the Undernile, Kate says, "Everything is a mess and I don't know how to fix it, not a single thing..." Ali replies, "No one does, but brave people are trying." Along with Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia, Cairo is one of my favorite graphic novels of '08.