Minus starts out as an innocent college visit for Beck, accompanied by her dad, but danger unfolds at a rest stop that sends Beck on a journey of survival that literally turns her life upside down. Homeschooled and fairly isolated from the world, Beck is a good-natured kid whose lack of experience turns into panic, and as she makes her flight, it’s not so certain that she has the instincts she needs to get through the traumatizing event she’s facing, but that good-nature begins to translate into calm and Minus turns into the story of multiple awakenings for Beck, most importantly the realization that she can take care of herself.
This suspense tale for teens has a true tension to it as Beck’s story unfolds into a gripping situation that keeps you reading, and that was unexpected. Naffziger catches you off-guard with both the tone of her writing and the mood of her art. Her dialogue is friendly, often casual, and she depicts the situation with the kind of thick, rounded lines and texture-less coloring that suggests Beck is headed into a light romantic college drama. This actually works to the story’s advantage though, casting Beck as familiar to our eyes and sensibilities, but giving her the chance to take a series of unexpected courses during the narrative.
Naffziger also shows a surprising amount of empathy for characters that it is hard to forgive for their actions, and that’s to her credit, promoting more than a stereotypical view of the transgressors you encounter in life. It provides an expansive attitude in regard to human solutions, acknowledging the complications that emotions lead to and urging thought and consideration while facing situations that seem black and white. In an era of snap judgment and instant condemnation, it’s an admirable approach to take.
Barbara Slate is something of a legend as a woman in comics, and her previous output has revealed her devotion to providing titles for a significant demographic that by the 1970s had been mostly abandoned by the big two. Her Angel Love series from DC Comics in the 1980s was groundbreaking, and titles like Betty and Veronica, Barbie, and Beauty and the Beast were all later recipients of her talent.
Now Slate is doing something a little bit different. She’s taking on Donald Trump with her Mueller Report Graphic Novel. To be released in two print volumes over the summer, Slate has created a surprisingly good-natured but thorough adaptation of what may turn out to be the most astounding story of American corruption in plain sight ever told.
Slate’s approach is to transform the contents of the report into a narrative that readers can follow. This means untangling numerous convoluted actions, providing context for a collection of organizations, and parsing out scores of players within multiple game boards. It’s a monumental task, but Slate whether it’s the Russian-tied Internet Research Agency or any number of Trump cronies, Slate manages to give quick clarity in order to keep the connecting of dots flowing into a straightforward tale.
At the same time, she must contend with certain parts of the report that have been redacted — which she acknowledges graphically, but never allows them to act as even as speed bumps to what she’s trying to accomplish here.
For all the information Slate must impart, it’s a miracle that she’s able to bring any levity to it, and yet she manages to provide points of laughter, often born of the general incoherent idiocy that ruled the behavior of the mobs of conspirators, most notably Trump himself, sometimes topped off with Slate’s deliciously subtle mocking tone. And the immediacy of the creation of the work accentuates the immediacy of the subject matter. This is a comic that needed to be done now rather than later.
I don’t know if Mueller Report Graphic Novel could convince any Trump supporter, but that speaks to the complicated psychology of those who dig in their heels when they’ve been swindled, of those who gravitate toward power at any cost, or those who feel threatened by made up boogeymen and see themselves in a life or death struggle. As for the rest of us, Slate has provided something that is half-public service, half-wild ride, both crucial and rollicking.