The revolution may not be televised, but nothing has stopped it from being splashed and sequenced, stapled and folded, colored and squarebound. It’s marvelous credit to the medium that comics of a revolutionary bent have evolved from the field of underground pamphlets and zines into thoughtful, well-written, mass-produced monthlies and graphic novels. It’s also a little frightening to realize how much our contemporary social consciousness has fueled this surge of four-color rebellion. Superheroes, who, like it or not, have become synonymous with the medium, achieved their Golden Age ascension at the height of World War II, when the enemy was without (interestingly, subsequent to the War, those selfsame heroes dwindled in popularity, losing ground to crime, romance, and western rags). But the enemy within, particularly in the last decade, has never felt more menacing. For a mainstream publisher like Marvel to unveil a summer-long event like Secret Empire, in which our own country is beset by a subversive fascist force literally wearing the American flag seems like a testament to how wide the fires of resistance have spread.
Scarlet #1, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, is the latest incendiary response to societal unrest. The book continues the creator-owned saga begun under Marvel’s Icon Imprint, with a new number one to kick-off the arrival of Bendis’s Jinxworld line at DC. This first issue of the new volume does a decent job catching new readers up to speed… but it may do a better job at selling the uninitiated on the merits of those first two volumes (DC is also publishing new editions of those collections).
Yeah, I get it. We live in a bubble. Despite feeling like I don’t need to hear it anymore, I nonetheless am amused and bewildered when I come across the kneejerk closed-minded right-wing reactions to even the vaguest of protestations. Case in point: the first three Amazon reviews for the digital edition of CALEXIT, the latest subversive gem from Black Mask Comics, courtesy of Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan. If they had called this book about organized resistance to an oppressive, fascist America something like, I don’t know, Secret Empire, maybe some folks would have bothered reading it before ranting. Instead, bozos like DonkeyKong777 and Lochstar chime in with insightful bon mots like “progressive bull corn” and “liberal wet dream.” This wasn’t thrown together as reactionary propaganda; the truth is, Pizzolo and Nahuelpan started working on CALEXIT long before reality started eerily mirroring the fictional dystopia they were crafting for in the book.
These guys also know the truth about California. Because they, like us, actually live here. And it’s far less of a bubble than most of the world realizes. So when the book’s creators stopped to think about what might actually happen if the majority of Californians rebelled against an authoritarian regime, they realized that the state itself would likely become dangerously divided. As Pizzolo states in his afterword, “from my point of view, any secession would likely lead to a civil war within California before the military could even get their boots on… Political passion/rage is as bipartisan in California as it is in the rest of the country.”