Review: Calexit #1

Black Mask’s Calexit has been eagerly anticipated by many comics fans, especially those more liberal ones. Calexit promises to be a more blatantly political comic, set in a world where a Calexit, which never quite got off of the ground here, possibly due to possible Russian ties, actually started to take place. 

Calexit #1

Writer: Matteo Pizzolo
Artist: Amancay Nahuelpan
Colorist: Tyler Boss
Letterer: Jim Campbell

$3.99 – Rated M/Mature
On Sale: July 12, 2017

What if a fascist, autocratic President took over the United States? And what if that President lost California, the sixth largest economy on Earth, by nearly 2-to-1…a margin of almost 3 1/2 million votes? What if the day after that President took power, the largest mass demonstration in history occurred, and the state with the largest turnout was California. And then, the following week, two of the largest international airports in the world, California’s LAX and SFO, were blockaded by protesters? What if California refused to be ruled?

This is the world of CALEXIT, the new ongoing comic book series launching on July 12th from Black Mask Studios, the Los Angeles based indie publisher of acclaimed titles including SPACE RIDERS, WE CAN NEVER GO HOME, KIM & KIM and BLACK. Together writer Matteo Pizzolo and artist Amancay Nahuelpan, the creators of YOUNG TERRORISTS, have created a timely title about resisting oppression, punching Nazis, protecting each other, kicking ass, and demanding liberty for all.

“This is a special moment in the history of comics. We’re experiencing a real renaissance of progressive and political comic books and graphic novels,” said Matteo Pizzolo, co-founder of Black Mask Studios and the writer of CALEXIT. “It’s not by accident that the first comic to win a National Book Award is the incredible MARCH by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, or that images of anti-fascist superheroes are capturing the imaginations of people around the world right now. There’s never been a more diverse range of comics that speak to our politics here at home or to the unrest around the world.”

In CALEXIT, the citizens of California will struggle to seize power back from an autocratic government. The ongoing series tells the story of Jamil, a 25-year old courier (aka smuggler), and Zora, a 27-year old leader in the Pacific Coast Sister Cities Resistance, who escape together from Occupied Los Angeles where martial law has been in place for the past year —  ever since America’s demagogue President signed an executive order to deport all immigrants, and California responded by proclaiming itself a Sanctuary State. Each issue of CALEXIT will also include non-fiction material about local sustainability and grassroots campaigning for 2018 elections.

“I can’t think of a time when confronting the status quo with progressive, political art has been more important,” said Brett Gurewitz, co-founder Black Mask. “Black Mask Studios has consistently focused on stories that are both entertaining and have a real message driving them. With OCCUPY COMICS, we published stories devoted to the goals and themes of the Occupy movement. Since then, we published stories about living under a fascist state (GODKILLER), about fighting celebrity politicians (YOUNG TERRORISTS) and gentrification (THE DREGS). We’ve published the 2017 GLAAD nominee KIM & KIM, and the creators of the breakout hit BLACK have donated proceeds to Black Lives Matter. The fact that the comic market is supporting brave voices like these is a real testament to comics’ crucial role in our national and international cultural dialogue.”

This story is put together very, very well. The world is very well established without the need for prose exposition up front. Of course, there is exposition, but it’s worked into the story quite naturally. The “villain” of the issue strikes me as a little derivative, but has a much more satisfying story arc, which saves it for me. The horrific nature of the California occupation is depicted very well and with enough restraint to let the readers’ imaginations fill in the gory details. As far as alt reality sci-fi goes, this sits as possibly one of my favorite ones. Being set a few years into the future makes it as much a warning tale as an alternate reality. This is a case of fiction making a political statement with a good story.

The art is very nice, in my opinion. This is a case of some of my favorite style of art paired with a story where it works well. Even blown up on the back cover, it looks tight and works so well. There is a case of a character in a full face mask that doesn’t even show his eyes, and the way he’s drawn helps tell the story of the scene in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time. The characters are all well-defined and carve out their own niche in the story. The fact that they fit into a multi-cultural society.

This is a well written and well-drawn story in it’s own right. I fear that it’s political message will overpower all of that. I fear that readers that don’t share the story’s outlook will reject the story in light of the message. That would be a mistake and perhaps the real message I should send with this review is that if your political resolve can’t resist a challenge, is it that strong to begin with?