A writer navigates shady—and potentially deadly—political campaigns in this vibrant graphic novel about unconscious bias and how the cynical exploit it.
April Wells, a celebrated African-American memoirist and essayist, lands a writing assignment unlike any she has had before: covering the presidential campaign of the presumptive Democratic nominee, William Waters, for a high-profile magazine. Waters, a well-spoken progressive with lofty ideals of unity in diversity, faces the polar opposite in his Republican challenger, the anti-intellectual, narcissistic Lee Newsome, who seeks to gain power by sowing division. Ahead of the Democratic National Convention, to be held in April’s hometown, Waters must also contend with a potential Achilles’ heel: persistent rumors that he has cheated on his wife with young male staffers.
At first excited about the assignment, April sometimes feels out of her depth and wonders why she was chosen instead of a veteran journalist. When a woman contacts her accusing Waters of sexual assault, April is torn: should she do her job and report this? Or should she sit on it, in case the damage to Waters’s reputation would help Newsome win the presidency?
Events soon spiral out of control, and April, feeling that her life may be in danger but mistrusting the police and the FBI, thinks of one person she can count on: the Big Man, a longtime friend from her hometown, now its mayor. Along with his stalwart crew of Little Men, they set out to unravel a gripping mystery that goes all the way to the top.
Whiting Award winner Thompson (Twin of Blackness) presents a timely exploration of political lesser evils and complicated truths in his first graphic novel. Essayist April Wells gets hired by Metropolis magazine to follow the campaign of aspiring Democrat presidential nominee Bill Waters despite her lack of journalistic background. Then a woman contacts April asking for a confidential meeting; she claims that Waters sexually assaulted her and that, as well, the rumors of his dalliances with male staffers are true. April, feeling out of her depth and worried that reporting on the woman's claim could benefit the campaign of the racist, brash Republican nominee opposing Waters, brings the dilemma to her editor. But then her editor mysteriously vanishes. Uncertain and worried for her safety ("if there was ever a time to be paranoid..."), she reaches out to the mayor of her hometown, a former high school acquaintance, who is prepping to hold the Democratic National Convention in the city. Untangling the reality behind the spin uncovers more questions and forces April to make a difficult choice. Thompson's flat, untrained drawings are earnest and evoke folk art, but they fail to meet the complexity of his probing themes; it's a curious juxtaposition, but as comics, there's an over-reliance on talking-head scenes and stiff figures, with a tendency to spell out exposition. However, it lands as a valiant, if not entirely successful, effort.)