Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: The Nightly News

The Nightly News was recommended to me by a very reliable source; my local comic shop owner.  The shop was celebrating its anniversary, and holding a sale for box customers, and I was browsing the graphic novels when he came over, plunked The Nightly News in my hands and told me sale or no sale, this should be my next purchase at his shop.  Since the guy's been sticking comics in my pull box (not nearly as dirty as it sounds) for over a year now, and talks comics with me on at least a weekly basis, I consider his tips to be close to golden.  The tip on The Nightly News is more like platinum.

The Nightly News is about a cult of radicals bent on changing the news media by destroying the news reporters.  They begin this change by sniping a few innocents, then sniping reporters as they show up on the scene to report the story.  The idea behind all this shooting is to get the news media to become reliable and report the facts, not sensationalized versions of the news that can ruin careers, marriages, and lives.

Led by the unknown and secretive "The Voice" who delivers their ideals, and missions, "The Hand" leads a group of followers who are determined to create a revolution in the media even if it costs them their lives. 

The Nightly News isn't just about capping a bunch of news reporters.  If that was the case, this graphic novel would lack serious cool points.  Hickman peppers in a bunch of interesting factoids that will make you question the reliability of the media, understand how corporations control the news, make you do a fancy math equation to see if your education was really worth it, and much more.  Warning: These little info-graphics will make you more cynical.  These little asides add depth to the story without detracting from the narrative flow too much.  There is also a strong mystery element as to who exactly "The Voice" is, and what his/her ultimate motivations are.

It should be noted that Hickman straight up declares on multiple occasions that he doesn't condone or endorse the Cult's methods or ideals, he is simply telling a story. And a damn good one too. 

Though I found the story of The Nightly News very interesting, and well told, the art is really what makes this graphic novel stand out as special.  Hickman, who also handles the art, almost totally eschews your typical panels, and art layout for what looks more like a graphic design layout.  While some pages look sorta similar to what you'd find in nearly every comic, most pages are a single entity, with bold overlying images and dialog bubbles, but separated in such a way that doesn't require panels to depict the flow of the story.  Hickman also uses a monochrome coloring scheme, a sort of rust color for present day events and an icy blue for events in the past, to set the tone for the story and make certain graphics stand out.  When this is all put together the result is a graphic novel that looks totally unique when compared to everything else I've ever read in the comics medium.  

Since The Nightly News is totally unlike 99.9% of all comics out there, I could see how it might be hard for some folks to really sink their teeth into. The story is a pretty dense one, packed with lots of story, and all those little information graphics as well.  The art definitely takes some adjustment time, but is worth the effort.  Sometimes, due to the nature of Hickman's limited color palette, it can be slightly difficult to tell who is who, which further slows down what is already a slightly slow narrative.  But then again, these might not be problems at all.  Once I got used to his art, I had no problem telling who was who, and if you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed the story and the little information factoids.

What I think is the most impressive quality of The Nightly News is that it's a comic that can make you think and question the norms of society...which can be a rare thing these days.  Highly recommended.

Grade: A

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