August 20, 2018

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Pick a Side-- a review of Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan's CALEXIT VOLUME 1

Jamil in Calexit V1 by Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan
Jamil in Calexit V1 by Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan

Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan imagine that in the next American revolution, California will raise the rebellion flag, declaring itself a Sanctuary State within the United States. In CALEXIT Volume 1, Pizzolo and Nahuelpan draw the maps of ideological battle as the US government declares all immigrants illegal, using its military might to round them up and kick them out of “our” country. For some like the adopted immigrant Zora this is a call to battle. For others like Jamil, a courier or a smuggler (depending on your point of view,) this presents an opportunity to make a buck regardless of any political or social leanings. Pizzolo and Hahuelpan’s CALEXIT Volume 1 finds itself at the crossroads of war and commerce as it asks its characters what parts of themselves they’re willing to give up to make the most of this new world order.

This is a book that desperately wants to be relevant among today’s headlines. Hinting that this is the near future with a xenophobic president early in his second term, the fear that Pizzolo and Nahuelpan tap into in CALEXIT feels less like fiction and more like the nightly news. They successfully channel the current mood of the country creating seemingly diametrically opposed ideologies around the ongoing immigration debate. They present all sides of the struggle, showing the right (Zora) and the wrong (the Steve Jobs lookalike Rossie, who functions as the president’s man on the scene.) Or maybe it’s your own political leanings that defines for you who is on the right and wrong sides of history.

Zora in Calexit V1 by Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan
Zora in Calexit V1 by Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan

The most interesting thing in the book is how Pizzolo and Nahuelpan hint that maybe this isn’t a story of right and wrong but a story of the fear caused by both sides. Zora and Rossie both have their own stories and lives that, at best, are only hinted at in this book in slightly unsatisfying ways. The characters are introduced in this not-so-unimaginable United States of America but it feels like the creators don’t have the room to really explore the source of that fear, instead using today’s keywords and hot-button topics to create the hotbed backdrop of CALEXIT. Operating on opposite ends of this political war, Zora and Rossie are characters who are at this point more defined by what we don’t know about them than what we do know. It’s not unsatisfying that their stories aren’t told well but it’s just that there is not enough of their stories here in this first volume

That’s where Jamil becomes our point of view character in CALEXIT. More of an opportunist than anything, he’s pulled into the conflict because of self-preservation. While there are comic fans all over the political spectrum that probably identify strongly with the beliefs of Zora and Rossie, there are probably a lot more people like Jamil who are stuck in the middle of these conflicts, recognizing the injustices that are happening but struggling for their own survival while trying to keep their head above water. Jamil is that middle where a lot of us find ourselves, trying to find some way to just survive while everything around him is being torn apart in the name of nationalism and justice.

Rossie in Calexit V1 by Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan
Rossie in Calexit V1 by Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan

CALEXIT Volume 1 is a protest comic that has a clear target in sight even if it’s most identifiable character Jamil is trying hard to avoid any real conflict. It’s not a story about the future as much as it’s showing the here and now. It’s a portrait of the current day when our neighbors may well turn out to be our enemies and the mood of the land is only amplifying the hate that is already part of our national identity. That hate and fear is only amplified in this story. Pizzolo and Nahuelpan hear “build that wall,” believing that it’s not a political slogan but a war chant. In CALEXIT, they’re laying out the sides of that war and challenging you to pick one of them.

CALEXIT Volume 1
Written by Matteo Pizzolo
Colored by Tyler Boss
Flatted by Dee Cunniffe
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Published by Black Mask Studios