By Daniel Vlasaty
I’m going to do my best to keep my personal politics out of this review. But I feel like whatever side of the political fence you fall on (although I have a feeling most people reading Calexit are going to be more left-leaning) we can all agree that shit’s pretty fucked up in the good ol’ U. S. of A. We have a lot of people having gut reactions mainly out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the future. My daughter was born not long after the election, and there are times when I’m worried about what the state of this country will be when she comes of age. What will this country be like when our kids are adults? But I digress. Calexit is a book that takes the idea of something that’s been discussed at least as long as I’ve been politically active and aware – California seceding from the country – and runs with it.
It’s a great, politically charged book. There’s this idea that comic books are for escape. That the only reason a person reads a comic book is to escape their real lives. That’s why there’s always going to be superhero books. Because we want to forget the shit of the real world, the heavy weight of our everyday lives on our shoulders. We want to sit back for fifteen or twenty minutes and get lost in stories of the good guys overcoming evil. We want to see attractive heroes saving the girl and stopping whatever it is that’s threatening to destroy the world this month. I get that. I do. I like that stuff just as much as the next guy. But I don’t think that means we can’t have a book that takes current events and turns them into something bigger. I think this type of book is equally, if not more, important than those simple escapism books. I don’t know where I was going with that but anyway.
Calexit is a solid introductory issue. We are introduced to a few different characters. And we are shown the current state of the country through their points-of-view. This book is about survival and what people are willing to do for the things they believe in. Pizzolo uses multiple characters to show this story from both sides of the fight. It’s by no means a light book. But on the other hand, even with its high word count, it never really feels too heavy either. Also, and maybe slightly surprising, Calexit never feels too preachy. Instead of forcing his own politics down our throats Pizzolo lets the characters speak for themselves. He lets their actions show us who and what they really are. And this lets the book be a story instead of being some manifesto. And again, I think if readers are able to get past their own beliefs and biases they’ll find that this is a really solid story, and Calexit can be quiet an important book.
I am familiar with both Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan from their other Black Mask books, most notably Young Terrorists and Clandestino. And I have always been a fan of Nahuelpan’s art. I feel like the art in Calexit may be slight more accessible than in his previous books. It’s cleaner and more straight forward. But that might also have to do with the subject matter here. The art is simple and crisp. Solid lines and solid colors.
I know there are going to be some people who never give this book a chance because of the political undertones – because of their own political beliefs. These are people that are happy to read the same stories over and over again and never be challenged. But fuck that. That’s boring. Give me new ideas and new stories any day over the same old superhero shit. Give me a book the presents different ideas. Black Mask Studios has been a hit or miss publisher for me in the past. But this seems to be the year they turn that around. With first The Dregs and now Calexit, they have my full an undivided attention.
Black Mask Studios