The week after the presidential election, I browsed my library’s graphic novels section looking for some girl power and found the perfect answer to 2016's anti-woman nightmare: a collected volume of DC's mesmerizingly brilliant Prez, published in February 2016. The cover gave me a hint of what I was in for: a spunky looking teenage girl recreating Crossing the Delaware, surrounded by a diverse crew. It's the perfect hook for a book that manages to skewer politics and society, predict the future, and put women and minorities front and center, all at the same time.
Writer Mark Russell, penciller Ben Caldwell, and inker Mark Morales (among others) tell the story of Beth, a viral video "star" who gets nominated for president as a joke in 2036 and then, through a series of bizarre yet plausible machinations, actually wins the election. All Beth really wants to do is raise enough cash to save her dying, uninsured father, but when it becomes clear that she's destined to become commander in chief, she steps up to the plate and goes about breaking all of the supposed "rules" to do what's actually right. Drama and mayhem ensue, involving a colorful cast of characters that include a sentient robot, War Beast, who escapes his captors, and like Frankenstein's monster, just wants to be loved.
The obsessively detailed comic is crammed with inspired bits, from the omnipresent "likes" and "dislikes" to the hovering Taco Drones that both feed and monetize the masses. There's even a mythology nod in the form of Fred Wayne, billionaire scientist and descendant of Bruce. It's a truly remarkable comic in that it manages to be emotionally affecting, smartly satirical, and hilariously funny. Sample dialogue, from cable news anchor Amber Waves: "Today marks 10 years since the end of the social network wars. We celebrate the triumph of Twitter! ... And mourn the ten million dead."
I imagine the creative team for this book huddled together, hammering out the details of their elaborate, bizarre creation. Maybe one of them took a swig of coffee and suggested "this thing is either going to be brilliant or a total mess." Congratulations, Russell and crew: Prez is the former, and as real life continues to make your "heightened reality" universe look less and less absurd by comparison, I applaud your achievement.