As a reviewer at Major Spoilers, I’ve had a milestone or two that gave me a sense of pride. But none of them can compare to the wonder of being able to review TWO different Prez #1 issues. Oh, brave new world that has such comics in’t!
Your (much awaited) Major Spoilers review of Prez #1 awaits!
Previously in Prez: Prez Rickard, so named by his mother to give him a great destiny to fulfill, hailed from the small town of Steadfast, where he quickly rose to prominence, as was elected president after the voting age (and apparently the age restriction on holding office) was lowered to 18. His book ran 4 issues (5, if you know the right people) and involved defending liberty from corrupt politicians, would-be militiamen who would overthrow his presidency, and also a legless vampire who traveled in a cello case. So, y’know, comics in the 1970s. Of course, none of that matters a whit in the new and different world of the DCYou!
IN THE NOT-SO-DISTANT FUTURE YEAR 2036
Okay, folks, time for full disclosure: When I heard they were revamping ‘Prez’ for modern audiences, I expected it to be a silly bit of retro goofiness. This is NOT that. Our story opens in the year 2036, where the major political parties are discovering the truth in the aphorism that today’s youth will have to live down their selfies, as no candidate has a clean enough internet/social media history to run for office. The world of ’36 is in a dark state, with heavy echoes of “what’s wrong with the world today” as corporations control public opinion, and politicians suggest the alternative to welfare is to force poor people to serve as walking billboards for fast food conglomerates who will then feed them in return for the free advertising. Young Beth Ross (points for noting the historical parallel) becomes short-term internet famous when a video of her cleaning the grills at her dead-end fast food gig goes viral (thanks to her pigtails falling into the fryer.) While the would-be politicos of the day struggle to get through to the youth, Beth suddenly finds herself an ironic write-in candidate for president, as everyone loves to laugh at the Corn Dog Girl.
And then, she wins the state of Ohio…
DARK HUMOR ON DISPLAY
This book does a couple of things absolutely right: It’s skewering of politics and social media trends are pretty close to the mark, a difficult task (but one that’s absolutely necessary, otherwise this book would be supremely depressing.) The subplot with Beth’s sick father could have gone terribly wrong, but it manages to stay in the realm of believability, and a sequence where she tries to go on a “reality show” to humiliate herself for money goes horribly wrong when the man before her successfully negotiates the life-threatening obstacles and intentionally shoots himself to win cash. One last wonderful moment comes with the reveal of “Boss Smiley”, or indeed whatever the character will be called in this iteration, as a secret group of multi-millionaires meets to decide the REAL fate of the population, each wearing a holographic likeness of their corporate logo to protect their real identities. As the issue ends, “Smiley” is embracing a holograph of our Corn Dog Girl, implying that he is about to make her the first teenage President (for some values of those words.) The art in this issue is very strong, managing to keep a sense of realism and groundedness even while dealing with wilder, cartoony moments of the TV and internet broadcasts. The range of facial expressions that Beth has in this issue are really impressive, and will be one of the keys to this book’s theoretical longevity in today’s crowded comic book market.
THE BOTTOM LINE: SATIRE WITH TEETH
To be sure, this book has created a cynical world, filled with self-serving jerks and morons of the highest caliber, all trying to avoid responsibility and reality. Russel and company have taken the ridiculous divided mess of current politics and culture and extrapolated a world that seems ridiculous (but not TOO ridiculous), with the clear intention of thrusting young Beth Ross into it. Will she change the broken world? Will it change her? I’m really keen to find out, as Prez #1 is a really good first issue, effortlessly creating it’s setting and the future world, and setting the stage for all manner of tales that could be told, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. With a little more fleshing out of our main character, I think this book has breakout potential. Here’s hoping the parallels to today’s world don’t get TOO depressing…