John Lewis has been many things in his career: a civil rights activist, a featured speaker at the March on Washington, a leader of the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, a respected member of Congress, a recipient of the Medal of Freedom, and a worldwide symbol of the power of nonviolent protest. With March, he’s also added celebrated graphic novel writer to that list. Along with co-writer Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell, March Book Two is the second in his three-part graphic novel series chronically his life, and that of the civil rights movement.
This second chapter takes us through Lewis’ time as a Freedom Rider, to the Birmingham campaign, through the March on Washington, and ending with the bombing of a church that killed four young girls. The graphic novel takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster through American history, recounted by someone who was there. His fear, his feelings of victory, his nervousness, and his doubts are all presented to us in a way that can’t help impact you on a deep emotional level. After setting it down, it still has me thinking and reflecting on the content within.
March Book Two takes everything that made the graphic novel good, and added even more, a crescendo before we see its conclusion in book three. The juxtaposition of the masses gathering to shape the civil rights movement, leading to the March on Washington, is apparent with the swearing-in of then Senator Barack Obama as President, and the crowds who also filled the National Mall. It’s a brilliant contrast of where we’ve been, and where we are. However, it I couldn’t also help but think of protests across the country now claiming “Black Lives Matter.”
Also present in this, is a warts and all telling of history. Lewis hints at the nervousness by some civil rights leaders for action and their finding of excuses to not participate in some of it. There’s the history of the nervousness on relying on a black gay man to help organize the march, and then there was the arguments over the content of Lewis’ speech during the march. This is non-sanitized truth from a person that was there.
While the first book was an emotional bunch, I found myself on a roller coast of emotion reading this second volume, fighting back tears and numerous moments, welling up with anger at others, and bewilderment and amazement throughout. Much of that is the story, but it’s enhanced by Nate Powell’s art which brings it all to “life.” Powell catches every moment in a raw powerful sense, but also brilliantly uses small visual queues, as well as expertly place panels to help create that emotional punch. This is Powell, who’s an amazing artist in everything he’s down, at the top of his game and I can’t imagine anyone else even attempting what he’s done.
When reviewing the first chapter, I said March should be required reading for every school child in America, it should be required reading for every American. It is a stark reminder of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we still have to go as a people and a nation.
Story: Cong. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin Art: Nate Powell
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Top Shelf Productions provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review