Collecting: March: Book Two (original graphic novel)
Original Release Date: 2015
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Characters: John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, SNCC
Writer: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Artist: Nate Powell
SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):
Storyline – 8
Art – 8
Captivity and Length – 7
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 9
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 8
The Little Things – 8
Overall awesomeness – 8
Inspired by the use of comic books to send across messages that couldn’t be transcribed in the written or oral form of communication, John Lewis, with the help of Top Shelf Productions, created March: Book One, an autobiography and first-person perspective of other Civil Rights stories. After laying down much of the framework of who John Lewis was, where he came from and what he believed in, we are thrown right into the deep end as this volume takes us through the evolution of the Movement, and journeys through the history of the Freedom Riders.
Book Two is a noticeable improvement over the first book, where all three creators really got their feet yet. Whether it has to do with Lewis’ personal growth or the nature of the Civil Rights Movement at the time of the events, there is a much more adult tone taken in Book Two. It wasn’t just the increasingly violent reactions from policemen and citizens towards the Freedom Riders, well-meaning white citizens who came to their defense, and dozens of black children. No, there was a constant looming threat of defamation, imprisonment and often times death that each of them had to be constantly aware for. It was a movement so formidable that even Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr. was hesitant to go on it – or so the book implies. These accounts are directly from John Lewis’ memory of first-hands, and I’ll be damned if I’m the one to tell him that he got it wrong.
Where the books excels is that it isn’t just a collection of stories from Senator John Lewis’ mouth. No, this is a calculated story with purpose. Scenes from the book are not only pieced together to form another successful chapter in his life, and that of the Civil Rights Movement. They are done so with not just the rationalization of a fiery young man, but the clarity of a wise man reflecting on his years as a freedom fighter. It’s refreshing to arrive at the conclusion that even though the courage that it took to actually follow through as a Freedom Rider was monumental, the entire movement was sparked by the simple yet fierce desire to make the situation better.
Technically-speaking, there are several improvements to this volume over the first installment. While the art was satisfactory in Book One, Nate Powell’s pencils are eye-catching and often shockingly-vivid. There were several scenes that convey the brutality and injustice that Lewis saw first-hand. There were other improvements, too, notably how well Powell and co-writer Aydin took advantage of the freedom granted in creating a graphic novel, really using unique ways to display onomatopoeic words and show the tone of a phrase by lettering it in a specific way. It’s a quite interesting way to communicate with readers – one I hope will catch on with other creators.
March: Book Two expertly brings the book to a close by chronicling Lewis’ attendance at Barack Obama’s inauguration in DC, the same city at which Lewis (and several other keynotes, like MLK) marched on Washington DC to give some of the most memorable speeches of the whole Movement. This scene illustrates that while progress towards equality and civil liberty has been astronomical, there is still plenty of work to do. That is why the Denver Freedom Riders have formed. The merging of goals between the generations is something that John Lewis speaks specifically about when describing his time working with senior activists. The capabilities of social media have made us all activists, but nothing really gets done unless the movement starts at the ground floor. I spoke with Hush writer Jumoke about the movement that’s gaining momentum in the Mile High City.
The legacy that connects our generations is a simple one; a group of people of diverse background looked up at something going in the nation and decided that it wasn’t enough for them to simply stay at home. Some of us went as individuals (Anthony [Grimes] and myself), many of us went in later groups, but most of the core group went down to Ferguson during the height of the unrest. As we came back, we realized that there was some work that needed to be done and continued right here from Denver.
“We believe in the inherent dignity of human life. We believe no one is more aware of that inherent worth than those that society has attempted to dehumanize, marginalize and oppress.”
Those two sentences, the first two in the Denver Freedom Rider’s mission statement, could be included in almost every social justice movement creed of the last 100 years. The same fights for human dignity are being waged – only the actors and battlefields have changed. For some, that may be disheartening, but, for me, that actually gives me strength and courage. Although it seems there will always be injustice, oppression, and battles to fight, I take heart in the fact that there will also always be those who ride for freedom.
– Jumoke Emery, community organizer and Denver Freedom Rider
For those looking to get involved in the community through the Denver Freedom Riders, here is a link to their Facebook page with more details.
I hope you enjoyed the review. I’d just like to point out that none of the pictures in this work are mine, and should all be credited to the good folks at Top Shelf Productions. You can find March: Book Two on their website, here.
Collecting: March: Book One (original graphic novel)
Original Release Date: 2013
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Characters: John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr.
Writer: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Artist: Nate Powell
SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):
Storyline – 8
Art – 7
Captivity and Length – 6
Identity – 8
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 7
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 7
A lot of people may not recognize it, but the graphic novel medium, when used correctly, can become a form of literature more descriptive than a novel or moving than the art. In March: Book One, the first of a trilogy leading up the March on Washington in 1963, we are fortunate enough to get that experience. What impressed me so much about March is that it was written by comic book novices. And who would have thought that one of the most powerful comic books (graphic novel, technically, but you get the jist) in 2013 was written by a United Stated Congressman?
Of course, John Lewis may be a comic book novice, but he’s no stranger to the Civil Rights Movement. Making up one of the “Big Six” in the Movement (a list that consisted of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and four others that each contributed to the Movement), John Lewis is the only one living. He is the Democratic Representative of Georgia and has quite the colorful tale to tell in this black and white autobiography.
So where do we start on our march to freedom? Well, we start at the chicken farm. Lewis begins his story of non-violence and racial tension by explaining his love for chickens. It came off as odd and unexpected, but ultimately won me over as an honest sentiment that foreshadows his love for all livings things – as well as offering some very adorable panels. The way he wanted to save all the chickens, make sure they all got fair treatment, named them and even tried to baptize them was a true ode to childish innocence and naivety.
March reads more like a memoir, taking breaks to revisit the current time to move the story along. It’s a method that works for the first few chapters, but ultimately becomes a little too much like a cliché television special for my taste. However, the way the story is presented, you can’t help but get sucked into the time. One of my favorite anecdotes in March is when he snuck off in the morning to run and catch the bus to go to school. The way he deliberately disobeys his father to go to school instead of help at home was a choice made with a gravity that a lot of younger readers can’t really grasp. Lewis’ trip up North with his uncle Otis was also eye-opening to just how different the two regions were in the 1950s.
Much of the visualization can be credited to the fine art of Nate Powell who captures the essence of the moment fittingly for each scene. The shading is perfect, and there is incredible detail when warranted. Even the way that onomatopoetic words are displayed and lettered add to the ambience of the moment.
The story really starts to kick into high gear when Lewis goes to college, and joins a Non-Violence group preparing themselves for marches and sit-ins by testing each others’ tolerance levels. It’s an amazing part of the Movement that I had never even considered previous to reading March. If you’ve studied African-American History, you know that sit-ins were an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement – but these people, most of which were courageous young adults, literally took turns berating and humiliating each other to see if their resolve for non-violence was strong enough. It’s unreal to imagine college kids banding together to do something like that today, and makes me appreciate every liberty I have.
Overall, March bridges a gap in perspective of the Civil Rights Movement that has formed between writing and film, with great recounts from Lewis that is complemented by the beautiful simplicity of Powell’s art. It falls a bit short in the sense that it doesn’t exactly have a clear direction, and the partitioning can seem a bit choppy with a lack of transitions. Luckily, Lewis’ story is so captivating and earnest that it pretty much writes itself. In the grand scheme of the book, those shortcomings are more like rough edges around an otherwise great read. It’s the best (albeit maybe the only) graphic novel portraying Black History I’ve read, and would recommend it to anybody who would like a different perspective of the Movement.
I hope you enjoyed the review. I’d just like to point out that none of the pictures in this work are mine, and should all be credited to the good folks at Top Shelf Productions.
I don’t know how they do it, but Scott Synder and Greg Capullo have made this feel like a true origin story. While most teams exploring an updated origin tend to focus on some untold section of a chararacter’s history, The New 52 Batman has been told however the creative team damn well pleases. After taking on the Red Hood Gang in the beginning of the Zero Year arc, Batman is now facing (Dr.) Death itself and The Riddler, as well as fighting his own personal demons. The artwork from Capullo is amazing, as it captures more of an early 1940’s Detective Comics vibe than most titles in 2013, a nod to his versatility – and let’s not forget about the comeback of the purple gloves. Storywise, it’s exciting and unpredictable. DC just let Synder have full reign on this book. Even the change to Jim Gordon’s canon, as heart-wrenching as it is, is spectacular story-telling. I can’t get enough of this flagship series.
Justice League #25 (DC Comics) – A
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Batman was evil? Thanks to the re-introduction of The Crime Syndicate into the DC Universe and the magnificent writing of the legendary Geoff Johns, you don’t have to wonder. Justice League #25 focuses our attention on Owlman, the Earth-3 alternate universe version of Batman, and his origin story. Recreating the infamous Crime Alley Haley’s Circus scenes where Bruce and Dick Grayson’s parents are murdered, we get a disturbing look at Owlman’s persona. Oddly enough, he has a soft spot for our world’s Dick Grayson, as he tries to win him over. Even with the world controlled by the Syndicate, as long as it’s written by Geoff Johns, I wouldn’t have it any other way
Batman: Black & White #4 (DC Comics) – A
Batman: Black and White is a collection of stories from 6 different writers. Can I begin with stating that the art work is phenomenal? The book starts off with “Ghosts of Gotham” by Nathan Edmondson and Kenneth Rocafort. This pairing is perfect. I wish their story went on for an entire book. Batman is hunting a killer in a graveyard. He is in full gumshoe mode until coming face to face with a menacing figure. Dustin Nguyen is a one man army. He tackles both art and story for “Long Day.” Although the story lacks any depth, the artwork more than makes up for it as Batman gets ready to begin his work in Gotham. Sean Galloway offers his bold animation style to end the book. It will remind you of the old WB animated series. You will love this collection. Black and White was easily my favorite of the week.
Superman/Wonder Woman #3 (DC Comics) – A-
This is a perfect opportunity to jump into a series that is has just begun. Only three issues in, Superman/Wonder Woman has started off with a real bang. What seemed like a cheap way to capitalize on a love story from their individual series is shaping up quite nicely to be an awesome story by itself. These two superheroes are powerful enough together to go up against some of the more powerful enemies in their prospective rogue galleries. It will be interesting to see what challenges are thrown at them whilst they try to cultivate a meaningful relationship amidst the chaos. This will also be a welcome change of pace from the traditional Clark Kent/Lois Lane relationship as well, giving a woman who can fully understand him a chance in the spotlight. The real question is….. What would their baby be like?
The Amazing Spiderman #700.2 (Marvel Comics) – B
New York is in a deep freeze, and our Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman is swinging from rooftop to rooftop to protect his city. He is trying to get to Aunt May, but is sidetracked by the emergencies the weather has created. He does everything that he can, from saving people in a burning building to pulling an ambulance from falling off the Queensboro Bridge. Peter is obligated to doing all that he can to save lives. He would risk everything he loves to do the right thing, but will he get to Aunt May in time? The story is a little slow, but it’s appreciated. We haven’t seen a human and vulnerable side of Peter Parker in quite some time.
Batgirl #26 (DC Comics) – B-
This whole Wanted arc has had me in a glass case of emotion. This twisted love triangle between Batgirl, her dad and her new boyfriend has had readers on edge for issues, thanks to the great writing of Gail Simone. When Barbara finds out that her dad is now the target of a up and coming group of villains, she comes to his rescue. This isn’t the climax, however, as Batgirl is finally ready to show Commissioner Gordon just who is under the cowl. The epic cover illustrates the scene perfectly. However, Gordon refuses to look at her when she lays it all out in the open. You can almost feel the pain and disappoint of Batgirl, which is a gift and a curse, because you find yourself wanting it to happen, especially after a reveal about her psycho brother. How long have they done this dance? Batgirl gave me enough to want to keep reading the series, but I can’t help but feel disappointed that it didn’t turn out how I wanted it to.
Captain America: Living Legend #4 (Marvel Comics) – B-
Living Legend is a four-part series that follows what seems to be a pretty standard Cap formula – take something that happened to him in WW2 and have it come back to haunt him today. For a guy who was frozen for fifty years, he sure has a way of having his past continue to catch up with him. Don’t expect any real character development here, with just four issues to tell a story, expect only plot pieces essential to the direct story to be told. This is really a shame because there was a chance for some interesting development with the main villain and supporting cast. Still, the artwork is amazing and is a must read for any Cap fan.
Marvel Knight: Hulk #1 (Marvel Comics) – C+
Dr. Bruce Banner is once again on the run. He finds himself in Paris pursued by a clandestine agency. Before he can change into The Hulk he is chased down by two huge Gamma induced monsters. Piotr Kowalski’s art in this issue is just what I needed. It seems odd that an artist with such a soft touch for subtly would be involved with a story arc about a violent uncontrollable beast. His panels are bold, yet subdued. I know Sherif is a big fan of his Sex series, I have yet to pick up an issue, but may have to start reading the series now.
Justice League 3000 #1 (DC Comics) – C+
When news broke of Justice League3000, not much of the actual storyline was revealed. We knew the story took place 1000 years in the future, and we knew that these would be familiar characters, but that’s about it. This debut can be summed up in one awesome word: CADMUS. Project Cadmus is originally a 1970’s Jack Kirby creation also called the DNA Project, has a history of splicing DNA with new clones – from Superboy to Bizarro. So you have futuristic clones with no context of how they came to be. Throw in the Wonder Twins, and you’ve got one confusing issue. 3000 is full of potential, but it’s story-telling will have to carry the series, as the panel-by-panel writing and art only show glimpses of greatness.
Wolverine #12 (Marvel Comics) – C+
Wolverine’s appeal in the Marvel universe has always been his willingness to leap into danger no matter the consequence. But what we’re finding out is the result of what happens when an alien virus takes Logan’s healing power from him; SPOILER, it’s not a good look. In a show-down that’s been building since the beginning of the series, Wolverine is coming face-to-face with the Hand (no relation to the Foot) and the Silver Samurai, led by Sabretooth. It’s a bit of a struggle of an issue, as Wolverine is slashed and battered throughout the issue. With his fate left in Sabretooth’s claws, I was left feeling excited for the conclusion to the Killable story arc.
Nighwing #26 (DC Comics) – C
Dick Grayson has had the displeasure of living in Batman’s shadow for too long. Since moving to Chicago in Nightwing #19, he has flourished as his own character. The writer, Kyle Higgins, is actually a Chicago native himself, which has given the city more life. It may not be Blüdhaven, but it’s Nightwing’s home nonetheless. With bad guys of his own, such as The Prankster, Tony Zucco, and the Marionette, Nightwing has been far removed from the Bat-family, and this story is no different, chasing down a thief with quite the creepy alter-ego, leading to a reveal at the end that… well let’s just say that you can take Nightwing out of Gotham, but you can’t take the Gotham out of Nightwing. As is typical DC fashion, there is nothing pertaining to the events of Forever Evil in the episode, contrary to the cover; I felt misled, but I still enjoyed the issue.
Three #3 (image Comics) – C
If you are expecting Three to be anything like Frank Miller’s 300, I am afraid you will be very upset, I know I was. It is however, a decent story in its own right. While it has initially been slow to start, it shows promise with the way the author depicts everyday Spartan life. This book is about more than just the Spartan warrior, it is about the politics and class struggles of the everyday Spartan. The series’ writer, Kieron Gillen, has gone to great lengths, including contacting some of the foremost experts in the field, to make sure that his depiction is as accurate as possible. Despite this being less about war and death, and more about life, the book hasn’t completely forgotten about battle and the violent nature in which the Spartans lived their lives. This book shows promise for what it is, however, if all you are looking for is more of 300, I would give it a pass.
The Amazing Spiderman #700.3 (Marvel Comics) – C
Joe Casey picks up the Amazing Spiderman 700.3 where David Morrell left off. Peter Parker has just saved his dear Aunt May from a New York blizzard. Not shortly after, as Spiderman, he finds himself in a life or death fight with Firebrand. He suffers nearly fatal wounds and is rescued by a shadowy ambulance. He awakens to find himself bandaged in a creepy hospital desperately trying to figure out how he arrived in a mysterious infirmary that seems to be for criminals only. I didn’t care for the art in this issue, there is a shot of The Thing fighting Rhino that looks too simple to be in an Amazing Spiderman book. I’m just not a fan of Timothy Green’s pencils in this issue at all. I was also excited about the simplicity in the story behind issues 700.1 and 700.2, and this issue took that right away in the first pages. Hopefully 700.4 takes us in a clear direction and our wall-crawler can get out of the web he now finds himself in!
The Walking Dead #118 (image Comics) – C-
There has been a lot of death in The Walking Dead, some impacting, others ostentatious. I mean, it’s a post-apocalyptic soap opera (George Romero’s words, but true), so we’re expected to see death around every corner. However, the death of a beloved character came so unnecessarily and with such gratuitousness that it just plain pissed me off. Sure, there was a pretty sweet battle cry from Maggie at the beginning to let readers know she’s still that chick “that rode in like Zorro on a horse,” but the momentum carried by #117 is completely lost in telling the story of a death I feel no connection to, but by all means should. To be honest, I’m beginning to feel that way about the series altogether.
Justice League of America #10 (DC Comics) – D
When JLA launched almost a year ago under the helm of Geoff Johns, I thought that this ragtag team of superheroes had found a home together as a B team to the original Justice League. However, after ten issues, it’s become apparent that this book is little more than a drawing board for the Forever Evil arc. There has been little to no exploration of obscure characters such as: The Martian Manhunter, Catwoman, Green Arrow and (our favorite) Simon Baz. In this issue, we get a jumbled together, after-thought of a backstory of Stargirl, one of the lamest heroes I’ve seen in The New 52. There is also a reveal at the end that has to do with the end of the world, but I could have found out from a Facebook status with the same amount of entertainment I had reading the comic.
Funniest Panel of the Week:
Epic Panel of the Week:
Cover of the Week:
That about wraps it up for our reviews this week! Look for next week’s previews coming soon. Any comic books you didn’t see reviewed that you want reviewed? Any grades you didn’t agree on? Let us know in the comments!
All images taken from ComiXology app and the credit for them goes to the respective publishers; thanks to IDW Comics, image Comics, Dark Horse, DC and Marvel for putting out great books.