Thursday, March 12, 2009

Trade Waiting - Jonathan Hickman's The Nightly News

I know Kirk already introduced both Matt and me, but, considering this is my first official post, I wanted to properly introduce myself. My name is Eric Rupe and, as Kirk said, I used to write for my own blogs, first with the Comic Catalog and, most recently, At the Edge of the Omniverse.

Trade Waiting will be one of the new columns that I will be heading up. As I made the switch from weekly singles to trades, I will be focusing most of my reviews on trade paperbacks and hardcovers and, from now on, you'll be able to find trade reviews in this column, set for a weekly schedule, every Thursday plus some additional reviews during the weekends on occasion. Be sure to check back tomorrow for my second column as well.

For my inaugural review, I'll be taking a look at Marvel's rising star, Jonathan Hickman, and one of his earlier works, The Nightly News. Hickman's creator owned work is a breath of fresh air for the comics industry. Be sure to check out his website, PRONEA, as well, if you are interested in his work. Hit the jump for the review.

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Jonathan Hickman
Collects The Nightly News #1-6

Jonathan Hickman is one of the most talented persons working in the comic business today, maybe the most talented. He wrote, drew, inked, colored and lettered The Nightly News. Possibly edited it as well, there wasn't one listed in the book itself. Now, he isn't the best at each one of those but he's highly skilled at each none the less.

The Nightly News is about a literal war on the media. It is being waged by a cult known as the First Church of the Brotherhood of the Voice, whose membership consists entirely of people who have been ruined by overzealous reporters in the media. Obviously, the book gets political, but Hickman stays away from the Left/Right, Conservative/Liberal divide and focuses on the media/government relationship. Things like corruption, bribery, collusion and censorship.

Now, I didn't find anything overly radical or shocking about what is portrayed in The Nightly News, but I guess some people could. The First Church's goal is to kill everyone important in the news media and we find out more about the cult as we go along. In fact, the revel of the identity of the leader of the cult and how well Hickman uses it is a testament to his skills as a writer and really helps bring the story together as a whole. These two elements play off of each well, the media and The Voice's goal, and connect to the larger theme of the media's responsibility and obligation to society. They also provide some of the better twist and turns in the story as well.

It's also hard to talk about the story without getting into the details, so I'll just say that it's a well done, thought provoking and a highly intelligent tale. Hickman's story is compelling because he handles a complex subject with great depth and maturity while still presenting a basically one-sided point of view.

However, there are no "good guys" in the story. On one side are the "villains" (aka the media) and on the other is a group of murderous sociopaths (the First Church cult), which makes Hickman's accomplishments all the more impressive. The characters, both the "heroes" and "villains," are also incredibly engaging for the simple reason that they believe in their own self righteousness. One of the best parts of the story, though, is the ending. It's a true twist ending that isn't forced or contrived. Probably one of my favorite endings.

While the writing and story in The Nightly News is superb, the art is a visual treat. I've never seen anything quite like it, in all honesty. It's very unique. Normally, there are the page(s), then the layouts/panels, then backgrounds, then the characters and finally the speech bubbles and sound effects. With Hickman's work, there is just the art. He works it all into one cohesive vision. All of the artistic elements work together in a way not found in most books, but sometimes there are issues with the composition and the dialogue flow can get jumbled up as well. Thankfully, it's not a recurring problem.

Another interesting aspect of The Nightly News is Hickman's use of information. He actually does real world research on the subject, which he uses to great effect in the story. He even provides some half page info boxes on various topics alla his recent Secret Warriors' caterpillar files.

Finally, I'd like to talk about the extras featued in this trade. Normally, I don't talk about extras because, well, they are extras and are not usually worth talking about in most cases. However, The Nightly News does have a "Notes" section from Hickman that is definitely worth a look through. He provides his insights on different things he did in the book, from research to Easter eggs in the book to his visual style, and even includes some of his opinions on the subject matter of the book. It's an interesting look into the thought process and work that went into making the book.

Verdict - Must Read. The Nightly News is an intelligent and unique work that handles a complex subject with depth while providing a thrilling and entertaining read at the same time.

Like this review? Interested in this book? Purchase Jonathan Hickman's The Nightly News from and help support The Weekly Crisis!

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Anonymous said...

Hickman's TNN was the only reason I needed to pick up his Secret Warriors work. Not usually one for mainstream stuff though, so hope he goes back to transhuman and TNN types of stories at some point. Maybe Marvel will let him in their exclusive club for Icon books since he's friends with Bendis?

Eric Rupe said...

He has a book titled Plus in the works section of his website which is "coming soon" from Image.

I don't think he'd be allowed to do any Icon books unless he signed an exclusive contract but I'm not sure if that would be a good thing or not. I guess it would depend on how many books he's writing for Marvel.

Bill said...

I would not necessarily applaud his skills as an editor, since the book printed with a bunch of typos. But otherwise, I totally agree that it's great.

semanticidrifter said...

Great review. He really does bring a totally unique design sensibility to the book. I would love to see the same aesthetic brought to proper Marvel Universe book. Could you imagine a heavily annotated take-down of, I dunno, Latverian sweatshops or something?

Kirk Warren said...

I've got this book on my pull list for the next time I order some trades from Amazon. For those interested, you can check out a preview (the art is unlike anything I've seen in most modern comics) at Hickman's Pronea website that Eric linked to or you can click here for the direct link to the pdf preview.

Eric Rupe said...

semanticidrifter - Now that you mention it, I believe he did do some pages for the Astonishing Tales book Marvel is currently putting out, not 100% certain though.

He also designed the Secret Warriors teaser site that Marvel put up after Secret Invasion.

Lee Nygma said...

This was the best book I read last year, which considering I started on Scalped, Ex Machina, DMZ and Seven Soldiers last year that's an impressive feat.

It was so good I actually email Hickman to thank him after I read it, something that's never even entered my head to do before.

Andrenn said...

This sounds pretty cool. I've heard about it but never considered looking into it. While I've been mostly dissapointed with Secret Warriors, I'll check this out. Thanks.

Matt Ampersand said...

That art looks great, it reminds me of John Paul Leon.

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