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AWA Upshot

The Resistance

Back in 2020, I read the first issue of The Resistance through Free Comic Book Day, and I said, “The evocative cover drew me in, and this story ended up being my favorite FCBD issue as it was a complete first issue of a new series, not just a taste like so many FCBD stories are. In fact, the narrative is eerily similar to what we are going through now, as a pandemic sweeps through the globe. In this tale, the pandemic is even more deadly, with a 95% fatality rate. But suddenly, the virus stops- as if a switch were turned off. The remaining world needs to regroup, with hints that there might be a mystical or otherworldly reason for what happened.”

Reading the entire graphic novel after a solid introduction was enjoyable- the world building was strong, for while the first chapter showcased a pandemic that changed the world order, the remainder of the book deals with the fallout. With only 5% of the world population remaining, political alliances are in turmoil, when suddenly millions of survivors begin to manifest superhuman powers (shades of the Marvel X-Men). What do these new powers symbolize- will these evolved humans bring hope to a fragile Earth, or are they super soldiers that were mutated by some aliens who plan to overthrow our planet? Governments step in to control these “reborns”, but many are cautious of the authority that is placed upon them, thus a resistance is born.

The art is solid and was appropriately shadowy and moody considering the storyline. The artist Mike Deodato Jr is very fond of grid overlays (see bottom picture) and it works very effectively. Deodato is an established artist, and his work reminds me both of Michael Gaydos’s work in the Jessica Jones graphic novels and a grown up version of the scratchy art I recall from Image’s early days in Wild C.A.T.S. and Youngblood.

Author J. Michael Straczynski offers fresh commentary about heroes and villains and ties it all into our current pandemic and certain fascist regimes. But he also has fun with it, as one of the chapters is just plain entertaining as you follow James, a new reborn being introduced to a superhero school, and he gets a behind-the-scenes look at how fake and controlled the heroes are. He was obviously inspired by the Marvel, DC, Invincible and Jupiter’s Legacy hero worlds, but makes it all his own. In his afterword, he mentions this will be a new universe that other AWA Upshot authors can connect into, so I look forward to this continuing story plus other tie-ins!

-Nancy

Covid Chronicles

“True stories from the front lines of Covid-19” is the tagline for this somber but excellent collection of ten short stories about the current pandemic.

Published in December of 2020 (before another graphic novel with the same name and more contributors in February of 2021), these timely vignettes utilize the stories that NBC News used online that visualized life for front line and essential workers early in the pandemic.

These personal accounts span the globe, giving us intimate looks at people affected by this terrible world-wide crisis. Often times people become numb to mass suffering (which I first noticed during the 2004 tsunami) but connect with individual stories. Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, explains: When numbers simply can’t convey the costs, there’s an infuriating paradox at play. Slovic calls it psychic numbing. As the number of victims in a tragedy increases, our empathy, our willingness to help, reliably decreases. This happens even when the number of victims increases from one to two. (Vox.com, September 5, 2017– written well before this pandemic)

The book begins with a foreword by actress and activist Alyssa Milano who warns that we will not “enjoy” these stories, instead they are to be “experienced”. And that proved to be very true- they were difficult but necessary stories that showed humanity in the midst of sorrow. The following ten accounts were interviews that Ethan Sacks the comic book author, and former journalist for the New York Daily News, conducted with acquaintances and then branched out to other people willing to share their stories and photos for the artist Dalibor Talajić to refer to when creating his evocative illustrations. The art was deceptively simple, yet conveyed great emotion.

The ten stories varied in locale (US, China, Mexico, Canada, Italy) with a mix of stories about medical staff, patients and researchers. There was an opera singer in Italy that went viral (check YouTube video at end of post), a man visiting family in Wuhan and having to stay for four months vs a few days, a street medic helping during BLM protests in Tulsa (I found the behind-the-scenes prep very inspiring), a journalist who finds out during the interview that the mother doesn’t know her adult son just died, doctors making tough calls and scientists tracking the early spread of the disease.

As the foreword warned, I did not enjoy this book, yet I am so glad I read it. It brought back memories of my anguish of having my mother hospitalized twice last summer (not with Covid) and not being able to visit her in the hospital. But it also reminded me of the kind healthcare workers who helped me speak to her daily with phone and video calls. There is a lot of kindness in the world, and this book shines a light on people who have stepped up to help during this terrible time.

-Nancy

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