When the President of the United States signs an executive order demanding the immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants, California declares itself a “sanctuary state” in defiance of the law. As traditionally liberal metropolitan areas find themselves increasingly at odds with the more conservative rural communities, the federal government cuts funding. Several west coast cities band together in a supportive union. In response, the US government sends in the national guardian and finds itself relying on far-right militias to fight insurgent groups.
Calexit, from Black Mask Studios, is immediately reminiscent of Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ, which focussed on a Manhattan which had become the front line in the Second American Civil War. As with DMZ, Calexit focusses on ordinary citizens as well as the political and military figures who will, win or lose, define the future of the nation.
After we are introduced to this dystopian world with dialogue that captures the mangled syntax of the current commander in chief, Matteo Pizzola’s wonderful script extrapolates a United States only a few years from now. The chatter of radio hosts shows a world where corruption and misuse of power has become the norm, wealthy “liberals” arm themselves against their own government, faceless homeland security troops defend statues and homoerotic white nationalists discuss military tactics, whilst ordinary people grow increasingly distant from the idea of inspirational leadership
Art by Amancay Nahuelpan focusses heavily on a cast of well realised characters, often fitting an impressive number of text heavy panels without the whole thing feeling swamped – aided no end by the ever reliable letterer Jim Campbell. When violence happens, it is unflinchingly brutal and realistically quick. Colouring from Tyler Boss delivers the lush environment of the wealthier suburbs, the drained yellows of a California suffering under a drought and military occupation, as well as the blood red burned-out homes of those accused of defending terrorist immigrants.
In terms of style, Calexit is a beautifully put together comic. In many respects, this world is very different from our own, but every new element is delivered in such a way as to feel entirely natural.
The first issue of Calexit will divide. Ably introducing the political situation as seen from the point of view of ordinary people, we are introduced to the truly evil character of Father Rossie, an employee of Homeland Security whose is very reminiscent of Hans Landa, Christoph Waltz’s character in the movie Inglorious Bastards. An early scene appears to be heavily influenced by the movie, before turning the whole situation on its head in a most unexpected fashion.
With an illiberal comedy character in the White House touting easy answers to complex questions, it’s tempting to divide the world into “good guys” and “bad guys”. With the second issue, it becomes apparent that Calexit won’t provide such easy answers. Our hero isn’t heroic, the heroine quick to anger, and there is much more to the villain than earlier thought. This is a world of people fighting for what they believe, and doing what they must to save their country. There are good people on both sides. It’s true, it’s true. Believe me. Everyone says so.
It would be easy to label Calexit as an anti-Trump comic. That would be fake news, Snowflake. Calexit is a pro-democracy comic. It speaks of patriotism, and what it means to the individual. It satirises a system where people are willing to misuse laws for selfish means, of dog-whistle politics and where ordinary people are at the receiving end of populist decrees; all issues which should be of great concern, no matter what side of the political divide you stand on. Calexit asks important questions about the role of government and military force, and about how far people are willing to go to protect the dream of democracy.
AND YOU’LL SAY – IF I’M PRESIDENT… ‘PLEASE, MR. PRESIDENT, WE’RE WINNING TOO MUCH. WE CAN’T STAND IT ANYMORE. CAN’T WE HAVE A LOSS?’ AND I’LL SAY NO, WE’RE GOING TO KEEP WINNING, WINNING, WINNING… BECAUSE WE’RE GOING TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. AND YOU’LL SAY, ‘OKAY, MR. PRESIDENT. OKAY.’
PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP