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339. The Nightly News
Dubbed “a lie told in six parts,” Jonathan Hickman’s first comic series is an intense takedown of both the news media and cult mentality — which, at the end of the day, are one and the same.
The story concerns John Guyton — a failed art critic and financial manager and the current Hand of the Voice — and his quest for revenge against the newsmakers who ruined his life. He’s joined by the members of the Brotherhood of the Voice, a group of similarly wronged people with a singular focus. As John narrates, “you want attention; you better have a high-powered rifle. You want credibility; you better have a body count.”
Activists are target practice, used to create a scene, to lure out the real targets: reporters. And, they all fall, one after another. It’s an act of open terrorism in the streets of New York, the media capital of America. The violence only escalates from there, as the Brotherhood of the Voice takes the media to task for being hypocrites, for being lazy, for destroying lives and never stopping to apologize.
Just as the media spoon-feeds the masses its corporate-controlled rhetoric and censored stories, so too are the members of the Brotherhood of the Voice brainwashed. They dress the same. They eat the same. They lose all identity. They pledge allegiance only to a voice on a tape, a man they’ve never seen, a man manipulating and dictating their every action, a man who, for all intents and purposes, is their god. To him, though, they’re little more than pawns, another set of sacrifices necessary to send his message: the news is corrupt.
It’s a tale of terrorism, told from the terrorists’ point of view, without ever taking their side.
It revels in revealing the mistakes of the media; the abuses of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank; the egregiousness of Ritalin; the worthlessness of higher education; the priorities of modern journalists; and the power of persuasion. Each gets its own incredibly informative breakout box, full of real statistics extrapolated into easily digestible pie-charts and graphs and symbols.
It’s a powerful book, one you can’t possibly read passively, one you’ll want to examine closely to pour over every documented detail, one you’ll want to read in one long sitting.
Even if the series wasn’t packed with terrifying truths and dynamic dialogue and witty narration and captivating characters, it would still be worth a look for Hickman’s truly outstanding art. He ignores virtually every hard and fast rule of comics to create his own language. Word balloons stream down the page, continuing conversations in uninterrupted passages, across panel borders — when, in fact, there are panel borders. Often, scenes are played out as overlapping images, of varying hues and saturations. Pages compound and bleed into each other, creating two page spreads that read as both a solitary whole and four separate pages. The style may sound a bit mind-boggling, but it all makes sense to the eye.
Color is also put to expert use, with warm, burnt orange hues used to delineate the present from the colder blues of the past. And, then there are the graphic elements. Circles are elevated to MVP status, an ongoing motif that acts as both a substitute for incidental detail and as a constant evocation of crosshairs and their targets. Everything is under attack in this book, so there ought to be no shortage of bullseyes. Diagonal lines serve a similar function, filling in for backgrounds and running across most pages, like a never ending “caution” tape. I’m particularly fond of Hickman’s use of the diagonal lines on protest signs and other documents, with footnotes that direct the eye around the page to find the actual text. I’m not sure if that scavenger-hunt technique is meant to be funny, but it amuses me to no end.
Do yourself a favor and pick up the trade.
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