Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

That’s News to Me

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 29th, 2006

Nightly News #1
“Chapter One: I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take This Anymore”
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Jonathan Hickman
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.35 CAN

I’m a journalist by trade, and I don’t mean my comics criticism writing. I cover the court/crime beat for a daily newspaper, one that’s owned by a corporation that owns every English-language newspaper in the province. People often ask me about my work and how that corporate, regional monopoly affects it. I tell them it doesn’t. But I’m not naive. Though it hasn’t occurred in my experience, it’s a global reality now that the media is sadly subject and vulnerable to manipulation by political and business interests. Nightly News is about lashing back against that corrupted information network. Creator Jonathan Hickman — whose work on this new title holds him out as the comic industry’s new Brian Wood — makes a bold statement by telling a story of homegrown terrorists fighting against the co-opted conscience of democracy.

In America, there are few ideals that are more precious or more important than the freedom of the press. But in a world in which six corporations control the just about everything the Western world sees and hears, that ideal has been compromised by rich men with ambitious agendas. They’ve done so because they know the great power that the media have. When wielded carelessly, that power can destroy lives, and a small group of men who were unjustly harmed by that power follow the instructions of a mysterious and charismatic leader to fight back. Blood flows, but the cameras never stop rolling.

Hickman’s use of photo reference, photostat, clip art, graphic design and silhouette all make it easy for discerning comics readers to compare his work to that of Brian (DMZ) Wood. His dark figures put me in mind of the line art of such artists as Jae (Inhumans) Lee and Jason (The Escapists) Alexander. There’s a VH1 vibe to his sense of design here that really sets the book apart from most other fare in the industry today. It also makes for a challenging read at times. He sometimes employs a font that’s rather small, but the nature of the subject matter calls for a slow, meticulous study. Hickman’s layouts don’t always follow the typical left-to-right, top-to-bottom flow of comics, but again, it slows the reader down. The unconventional storytelling is intriguing and ultimately rewarding.

Both sniper scopes and the writer’s ire are aimed chiefly at broadcast news. I’m in print, and I prefer it because it allows for more detail and greater impartiality. Broadcast is about the visual, about creating drama and about immediacy in reporting, regardless of accuracy. Just watch a 24-hour news network for proof. Supposition and editorializing are commonplace in broadcast. I share some of John Guyton’s frustration. I share his critical viewpoint. Guyton and the Voice are right in many of their views, and they serve as the means by which Hickman connects with his audience.

Of course, Guyton and the Voice are not heroes. The Voice’s methods and the way his group is organized and operates are all highly reminiscent of a cult. It makes for an interesting conflict in the reader. One can admire and relate to their anger over the corruption of the fourth estate, but their zealotry and extremism are disturbing.

Hickman’s artwork isn’t the only thing that will earn him favorable comparisons to Brian Wood and his cutting-edge contributions to the medium. The political and social nature of his storytelling is part of it as well, but so is his in-your-face approach. Just as Wood has done with Channel Zero and DMZ, Hickman has climbed to the top of a building to scream through a megaphone, shouting truth, denouncing apathy and calling for action. 9/10

Nightly News #1 is slated for release Nov. 1.

11 Responses to “That’s News to Me”

  1. Ebrahim Aldosary Says:

    Up until I read this, I had never heard of the book. I’ll definitely get it now based on your recommendation. It sounds like something I’d be very interested in reading, and the art looks great.

  2. Tomas Says:

    I’m a journalism major myself, and I have to say that I can get pretty frustrated by broadcast news’ editorializing, sensationalism, and in some cases, limited range (i.e. when CNN covers the same thing virtually non-stop for three days straight). So it’s nice to see a comic that deals some of these issues, as well as other things. I definitely hope to pick this up.

  3. Dan Coyle Says:

    One of the better books about the collapse of the news media is Don’t Believe It!: How Lies Become News by Alexandra Kitty. It exposes the general mendacity and just plain LAZINESS of the print and TV mediums. I highly recommened it.

    This review has convinced me to check out The Nightly News.

  4. Joseph Johnson Says:

    I was intrested when I first saw this. Hopefully my store will have a copy and I’ll pick it up.

  5. Don MacPherson Says:

    Joseph Johnston wrote:
    I was intrested when I first saw this. Hopefully my store will have a copy and I’ll pick it up.

    I know my local comic shop has ordered very few copies… probably too few, given the interest generated by an eight-page preview that was sent out to retailers.

  6. Clint Johnson Says:

    I picked this up to day and was surprised. In a good way. Very stark and unflinching with a decent mystery to back up the anger and violence. I think it will be interesting to see if Hickman can keep the energy up over the six issues. Graphically, a huge success.

  7. Clarence (a.k.a. Bahlactus) Says:

    Solid review! You can get down with words straight from Jonathan’s mouth in my podcast called “Comicazi”. Since Nightly News #1 dropped today, the podcast featuring Jonathan talkin’ up Nightly News released today as well 🙂 Enjoy.

  8. limblicker Says:

    Just picked up this highly anticipated, for me, title…….. brian Wood hey….
    very much so but with a ginder edge. the design is wild and colour are amazin bright and lovely for a dark subject matter.. this is where comics can go and should

  9. Don MacPherson Says:

    I’m hoping Nightly News becomes a sleeper hit. I think it deserves it, and if the comments here are any indication, it might actually make it.

  10. Nick D Says:

    I just picked up the book. Just an amazing read. It was honestly the best of the month so far even though we are in the first week. I doubt any book will come near it. Solid in all aspects from art to story to layouts and design.

    Definately worth every penny.

  11. lincoln yaco Says:

    very good writing. I just read the entire Nightly News series at a gulp. I was so engrossed, I forgot I wasn’t reading one of those clever bright cracking British writers, such as Ennis or a Garth or …..whoever. Very smart stuff. Some nicely placed left turns where they weren’t expected… clever construction. I wanted more when it ended. Oh yes I do! But I searched and I searched and I could not find ANYone who sells your work–not Amazon (except for News)…I will hunt some more. Yr writing is terrific.

    I’m a writer myself. I wrote a few books including “The Science of: THE X-MEN” for Marvel–damn thing went thru 3 printing cuz of the movie. Did an Alan Moore essay for “Alan Moore, An Extraordinary Gentlemen” which also did very well, again because of the movie. Some other books, too, and some comics for various indies, and articles as well…

    So I know how tuff the writing game is. You have managed to write exceedingly well in a rough and tumble environment. Congrats!!!

    Thanks,
    Lincoln Yaco