November 3, 2020

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Separating Non-Fiction From Fiction in The Recount #1

 


It somehow seems immoral to hype up a comic that glorifies a premise centering around complete chaos, but then I look around and realize we are pretty much already there and any reservation for morality was gone a long time ago. Any self-righteous aspiration toward complete morality through by way of partisan power hasn’t exactly gone to the full extent that writer, Jonathan Hedrick, artist Gabriel Ibarra and the rest of the creative team sum up our country to be. Though they do so in an equally as unsettling place nonetheless. 

Scout Comics will be debuting The Recount one week after an election during the most devastatingly divided period America has seen since the Civil War. Reasons for being on one side or the other range as far apart as they possibly could, with only their unwillingness to consider an opposing perspective serving as the lonely commonality. Regardless of however true your personal place in this debate may be, it remains true that sometimes we humans do suffer from periodic moments of disenfranchised superiority. But then there are also people that are just inherently evil. Those people are the kindling. Those people are the fire starters. Those people have found solace in the leadership that our country has had during the last four years. The incumbent president once infamously said that there are good people on both sides, but what Hedrick and company seem to be exploring in The Recount is that those of which we so carelessly derided as good people are some small part in a large process that could bring upon the fall of the system of democracy as we know it. This is done in exact precision with blatant, and unreserved stereotypes within the who’s-who in the battle between good and evil as the system of American democracy begins to have its final fall.


The story begins in The Recount with a President standing before a large crowd. He is carefully, and directly addressing them with a speech with what seems to be shortly after an impeachment process brought upon him. Moments later, without getting past the first couple pages, an assassination attempt proves successful and chaos ensues. These frightful moments of entry into a story reminded me quite quickly of the first 3 minutes of the fifth season of Twenty-Four as President Palmer was assassinated without warning which led to immediate, and loud “WTF’s” as my watch party from 2006 all looked at each other in disbelief. Just as those moments were brief but suddenly traumatic, so were these first pages of The Recount. The remainder of the issue continues a narrative with the as-to-be-expected protocols that would be when Vice President is sworn into office after such events. 

Since a member of the Secret Service just assassinated the President and now a group of conspirators who call themselves THE MASSES have sworn to kill anyone who helped elect him, the Vice President suddenly has a lot to worry about. Without giving away too much of what happens thereafter, and without understanding exactly how the creative team will be able to keep the distinction of fiction recognizable from the non-fiction, I will assure you that if you happen to be the type who hoists a flag (..or 3) from the back of your pickup truck as you find yourself part of a pack of a hyper-patriotic type surrounding the campaign bus of a presidential challenger then this comic is probably going to piss you right off. And, frankly, I kind of think that is the point. That said, as soon as the Vice President is sworn into office she (yes.. SHE!) begins her rounds of justifiable outrage toward the situation. Why did this happen? How did this happen? Who can she trust? Is she going to be next? Members of the Secret Service and associates surround her with reassurance but nothing will prepare reader for what comes next before the final pages of this spine-shivering first issue.
 

Division in America, division in community, and division in family; all of this is happening in our current non-fiction. The Recount uses non-fiction to drive a fictional story about division as a movement. To a certain extent it feels irresponsible to tell a story like this and entertain such awful events, but on the other hand it heeds warning to what is to come next if we don’t act now. Some people tweet their frustrations, others spread awareness with sharing articles, then there are those who head to the streets and take part in protests to get their voice heard. Art and the creative outlet of storytelling is also a tool used to bring change. The Recount may not seem like a protest comic because it literally gives value to the movement that is hatred and division, but beneath all of that is the warning that this fiction can be avoided so long as we try.

Now, let’s take moment and talk about art here. Gabriel Ibarra does an incredible job in making this lived in world feel real. He builds the world so that we as readers blur the line between what we are reading and what we are living. Writing that sentence reminds me how awful things have become to even be considered as being confused with this story. Colorist, Sunil Ghargre, adds to the depth in the world that Ibarra brings to life. The layouts and the sequencing of story that these two create add an element here that brings horror to an already scary situation. This is a horror story that barely missed Halloween but is just in time for the climax of the election season. 


Many things can be said about lettering in a comic book. As mundane and trivial as that statement might seem, I urge you to find me offline and I’ll give you some recommendations of some wretchedly awful lettering designs that make a comic near impossible to read. Not only does Cristian Docolomansky make this uncomfortable subject matter easy to read, but he also nearly gives words a sense of character themselves. The art of lettering is one that often gets overlooked but should definitely get more attention when discussing what works and what doesn’t. Here in The Recount it feels we have a creative team who understands the importance of a complete package and the resulting presentation is one to take notice of.

I can already hear many of you tapping your toes looking for the next moment to exit this recommendation. I sense that you are questioning why I would waste my time hyping a comic that forces us to reflect on the worst aspects of society. I also remember my telling you that it was my questioning of my own morals when I felt the need to spend time with this book at all. The reason is very simple actually. Our non-fictional lives have become so enthralled in our own existence that if not careful we will ultimately find ourselves in a future version of ourselves that is not far off from the fictional story here in The Recount. On the surface this is a gripping political thriller in all aspects of the sub-genre, but beneath it all I really do believe that this book is a warning; a red flag hoisted high in the air, not from the back of our pick-ups, but instead from the pages of this comic. Engage. React. Vote. But above all else, be kind.

The Recount #1
(Out November 11th)
writer: Jonathan Hedrick
line artist: Gabriel Elias Ibarra Nunez
color artist: Sunil Ghagre
letterer: Cristian Docolomansky
publisher: Scout Comics