Review - Calexit #1 (@blackmaskstudio)

"Now let me welcome everybody to the wild, wild west. A state that's untouchable like Elliot Ness."

It's no secret that the United States as a country is having something of an identity crisis. Different sides of the spectrum are warring with words as to whose side is more in line with what the Constitution intended. For some people that belief goes so far as wanting to withdraw from the country entirely as California does in Calexit #1 from Black Mask Studio. The issue is written by Matteo Pizzolo, illustrated by Amancay Nahuelpan (flats by Dee Cunniffe), colored by Tyler Boss and lettered by Jim Campbell.

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?

From the jump Pizzolo demonstrates that he's not really in a gaming mood in Calexit #1, starting off the issue with a rather fiery intro that immediately sets the tone. The concept of California isn't as far-fetched as, say, South Carolina doing so--a fact seemingly not lost on Pizzolo. The narrative is set to funnel through Zora(a fugitive) and Jamil (a courier), both of whom view the events leading to the Calexit differently. And those events mirror the direction the United States seems to be headed after the 2016 election, adding a stark sense of reality to the work of "fiction." The dialogue throughout the issue is clean and engaging, clearly defining each of the characters and the stakes they maintain in a world where California is fighting for independence from an autocratic regime.

The illustrations by Nahuelpan are gritty in a way that adds a sense of realism to the work. Nahuelpan infuses the book with a serious sense of dystopian realism by rendering panels full of rundown areas that were previously tourist hot spots. Where Naheulpan excels most though in how he successfully mixes vestiges of the old way of life with the new, blending together seemingly common events with the new, militaristic events in a way that makes it all feel oddly normal. Characters are illustrated in a way that reflects the recent decline in lifestyle because of the arrival of the newly deputized National Guard, blending together somewhat normal looks with a rebellious mentality. And Boss' colors are dire throughout, washing the book with reds for the most part that underscore the severity of the situation.

Calexit #1 is a brilliant take on an entirely plausible future. Zora and Jamil are on two sides of the conflict in a way, but it's likely they have more in common than they may realize at first. Pizzolo's story is terrifying in its possibilities as it portends a near-future that brings with it oppression and fear. Nahuelpan's illustrations are a perfect fit for the script as it brings to life a militarized California. Calexit #1 is a great story that brings with it a lot of fear and possibility.

Calexit #1 is available now.