Tuesday, April 14, 2015

March Book Two

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of March Book Two (Top Shelf, 2015).

The eagle-eyed among you have probably noticed that I write about very few comics these days other than 2000 AD, but the exception to that rule is the simply amazing March, which is Congressman John Lewis's memoir, co-written with Andrew Aydin and drawn, amazingly, by Nate Powell.

I think that even if I had any artistic ability, I wouldn't want Powell's job. Illustrating the tale of the civil rights movement requires him to draw people being incredibly ugly and horrible and hateful to the point that it made my skin crawl and my eyes tear up. Once upon a time, I'd have said that depicting the enormous crowds of the March on Washington would have been the greatest challenge, but no, it's probably having to draw the unfathomable horribleness of the people in Birmingham or Montgomery or Rock Hill assaulting black citizens for no damn reason whatever. This book will break your heart and make you really angry.

After the first book set up the young Lewis's introduction to nonviolent protesting and lunch counter sit-ins, principally in Nashville, this time out, the focus shifts to the equally passive resistance of the Freedom Riders. The civil rights struggle spread throughout the southeast and many different agencies participated at different levels of involvement, but Lewis and his group stayed passive and refused to pay bail once arrested, thus denying money to the governments that were arresting them.

The action moves around the south, from bus stations in Birmingham to hellhole prisons in Mississippi to last-minute rewrites of speeches in faceless offices in Washington in preparation for the big day. All the while, southern rednecks of the sixties embarrass us who love to live here in the present, Bobby Kennedy urges a little more patience and caution, and the televised highlights of the violence in Alabama begin to force the feds' hands.

It's flatly an amazing and heartbreaking and life-affirming work. I can't wait to see the third and final volume. Very highly recommended.

No comments: