The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 22 | “The Nightly News” TPB review

Leaving Proof 22 | “The Nightly News” TPB review
Published on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 by
The Nightly News
  • (Image Comics, 2007; 184 pages; reprints The Nightly News #1-6, originally published November 2006 to June 2007)
  • Writer, Artist, and Letterer: Jonathan Hickman
  • Cover Price: $16.99 US
—————————–

Jonathan Hickman’s been drawing attention from the mainstream media lately for his recent work on Marvel’s The Fantastic Four, featuring the death of a member of the superhero quartet. The event merited an Associated Press article that appeared in the New York Times, for whatever that’s worth these days. I figure this is as good a time as any to take a look at The Nightly News, Hickman’s critically-acclaimed 2006 comic book debut.

The back-cover blurb written by comics scribe Andy Diggle proclaims The Nightly News as “NETWORK meets FIGHT CLUB” and as incongruous as that combination sounds, I found it to be a pretty spot-on description of the book. The main plot revolves around John Guyton, a divorced and down-and-out former financial manager who falls in with the Brotherhood of the Voice, a cult-ish terrorist group that targets media personalities. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I’ll keep the summary short: Guyton eventually finds himself in a position of considerable responsibility in The Brotherhood, committing larger and more audacious acts of domestic terrorism and drawing the attention of Very Important People, culminating in an ending that, despite a certain degree of predictability, manages to satisfy for the most part.

The book’s primary thrust seems to be to indict the modern news media, an industry that’s been all too happy and willing to sacrifice veracity at the altar of ratings-driven sensationalism and scandal-mongering. Readers will likely be tempted to try and glean Hickman’s personal politics from the story and its protagonists, an exercise that can potentially lead to a mis-reading of the material. The story has less to do with championing one side or the other of the liberal vs. conservative debate, and is more about the author creatively expressing his frustration at the current state of broadcast journalism and televised punditry and how both have contributed to the decline of meaningful social and political discourse in the United States. On the surface, it doesn’t sound like the stuff of entertaining comics, but Hickman does a great job of mixing in big-screen action and thrills to keep the proceedings from becoming too dry.

My one major misgiving when it comes to the writing is that the dialogue does little to establish distinctive personalities (or any personality at all) among the speakers. The ones that do diverge from the book’s common cadence are such caricatures that they can be distracting, and not in a particularly interesting or entertaining fashion. The book’s “villains,” such as they are, come off as one-dimensional pastiches of the typical “evil suits” in film and television and the protagonists lack a level of depth that could have helped me become more readily invested in their exploits. Still, the pacing and momentum of the story is such that the problems with the dialogue are easily ignored and forgotten.

I found the art to be a bit of a mixed bag. Hickman’s use of a monochromatic palette and the employment of a strong graphic feel for the page layouts are inspired decisions. However, I felt that his detailed figure rendering clashed with the page designs and the faces on many of his characters seem a bit too much alike, which is a problem in a comic book that features as many talking heads as this one does. I did appreciate his use of infographics, decorative text, and other graphic design elements, even if their use sometimes bordered on the gratuitous and the page dimensions meant that some text and infographics came out muddy and nearly unreadable.

Hickman’s choice to eschew traditional panel borders was troublesome in certain parts of the book. In pages where there isn’t much happening across time, the result can be quite impressive. However, in pages where an extended linear sequence of events is being portrayed, the lack of clear panel divisions and the rare break from the right-to-left/top-to-bottom reading convention makes for occasionally frustrating reading.

All in all, The Nightly News is a very compelling read, and is as strong a comic book debut as I’ve seen from anybody in a very long time. Hickman tackles some heady stuff while deftly avoiding coming off as pretentious or preachy. The unconventional graphic design flair to the art interferes with the storytelling at times, but not enough that it detracted significantly from my overall enjoyment of the book. I’m not currently reading Hickman’s work on The Fantastic Four, but I can’t imagine that it’s anything but a step down from The Nightly News, Associated Press articles notwithstanding. Very highly recommended.

Discuss this article in the Column Forum or e-mail zuludelta (please put “Leaving Proof” in your e-mail’s subject line)
Comments are closed.
Advertisements

Connect With Us!
The Geeksverse on Instagram
Recent Comments