By Devon Sanders
I adore the comics medium.
Comics asks you to contemplate of an idea, then asks you to hold it for a month or longer, re-examine it and move on. Comics reading takes thought, commitment, patience and above all else, an appreciation of art and the written word.
That said, no comic right now is a greater celebration of the comics medium than DC Comics’ Prez, one of the best and most timely things I’ve ever read.
It is the one book I look forward to month in, month out.
Prez is a bit of an outlier when it comes to what we know as a “DC comic.” Prez is political satire set in a future where there are no superheroes. Not a one. No Batman. No Superman. The lone mention of anything remotely superhero-ish is a cable news TV program scrolling the announcement of who’s set to direct “Aquaman IV” as cable news pundits discuss ridiculous hypotheticals over the issues at hand. Prez is, spiritually, a Vertigo comic. This Prez, Beth Ross will become president in a future where voting for President on social media is the height of apathy. She exists in a world where going viral is king and getting your ponytail stuck in a corndog fryer during a presidential election can have major consequences for America. In Beth Ross, we’re given a protagonist we want to see win simply because, in this future, the bar has been set so low you can’t wait to see her raise it, even if just an inch. She is the best of what comics offers, she is hope.
And that speaks something to what Prez is at its core, just good comics storytelling. Like most great comics sagas, our hero’s journey begins with the death of a parent. The future she inherits is one where she and her father crowdfund through social media in the hope of continuing his healthcare. It’s a goal that couldn’t sustain him. She lives in a future many are living in right now.
As sure as two bullets awakened something dark inside a young Bruce Wayne in a Gotham alleyway, the death of her father leads Beth Ross to ask something greater of herself. She will try harder. She will ask this of everyone she meets. She will care. She will draw others towards her light.
The odds will be against her but she will fight for change despite the evidence going before her. This character with deep roots to Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America, will ask more of you as a reader. Writer Mark Russell has created in this comic, a character of much consideration. In the world in which she lives, we’re given so much to think about and even more importantly, questions to ask of it. In a great bit of what could be meta-commentary, a character from DC Comics’ past reaches out and tells her that basically she owes no one anything and to go out and shake things up. This is how Alan Moore approached Swamp Thing and this how I see Russell on Prez.
You can see the passion and excitement for world building in artist Ben Caldwell’s every line. His Beth Ross is the definition of semiotics. When I asked Caldwell about Beth’s racial identity, he said, “Prez was only described as having blonde hair, a ponytail and thrift store punk style but I’m all about semiotics and not eager for a “greatwhitehope” or Barbie comparisons. I went the “everyman” route, which, in 2036, wouldn’t not come in a default white setting. So, I made her indeterminate. Ditto for her dad.”
Basically, the future is now, again.
In Prez’s world, factoids and advertisements are constantly floating in mid-air via digital billboards to the point where anything of substance barely has time to register or be scrutinized. In the world Caldwell creates, this becomes just as much a character as Gotham is to Batman. It’s an amazing thing to behold and deserves more eyes upon it.
Here’s what it comes down to: we throw our support behind the things we want to see. I want to see more thoughtful and considered comics. Prez is exactly this. I adore this book. I want more of this book. I want this book to succeed.
Prez is scheduled to be two 6-issue series and the fact this comic is being released during a presidential election cycle is not lost upon anyone. Prez is a smart and thought-provoking read. I believe it is the most necessary thing to come from a major comics publisher in very long time.
My sincere hope is that DC Comics knows they’ve got something incredibly special in Prez and allows for the long game. I truly believe Prez will be something people will be talking about for years to come.
Devon Sanders has a fantastic idea for a Go-Bots reboot. Seriously; he can be found on Twitter at amazingly, @devonsanders.