Shiny Shelf

The Nightly News

By Mark Clapham on 17 September 2007

‘The Nightly News’ completely passed me by when the six individual issues were published, but as the series went on the buzz about it increased. Having heard good stuff about the series, as well as an interview with creator Jonathan Hickman, I was curious and picked up this trade paperback of the whole series.

I read the whole lot in one evening, pretty much in one sitting, reluctant to put the book aside to do anything else. With hindsight, I’m actually kind of glad to have only caught up with ‘The Nightly News’ in a single volume, as not only is the story hard to put down between chapters, but read as a series its complexity would probably have resulted in me completely losing track of where I was between issues.

Also, reading in one go means I didn’t get annoyed by the fantastic cheat of the resolution to issue 4’s cliffhanger ending. More on that later.

‘The Nightly News’ concerns the Brotherhood of the Voice, a terrorist cult that targets the news media. The Brotherhood is made up of people whose lives have been destroyed by the iniquities and inaccuracies of news reporting, broken and malleable souls led to murderous revenge by the Voice, an unseen presence only ever heard on tape recordings and speakerphones. As the campaign of violence spreads with increasingly spectacular and suicidal attacks, America attempts to respond – the media bosses panic, senators attempt to legislate the problem away, and at least one foolhardy journalist investigates the very organisation that’s killing newsmen.

As the story unfolds, it asks a lot of questions about truth, lies and belief, but thankfully doesn’t pretend to answer any of them. There are plenty of facts – about inaccuracy in the media, about the distorting lens of the relentless, rolling news media, about the concentration of media ownership and control in the hands of a small number of corporations – but undercuts any pretensions that a comic is any more reliable a source of ‘the truth’ through waspish asides about the prejudices and conceits of the author.

Which brings us to the style in which ‘The Nightly News’ tells its story and delivers information to the reader. I’ve referred to Jonathan Hickman as the ‘creator’ and ‘author’ of ‘The Nightly News’ rather than ‘writer/artist’, as the visual style here defies the normal boundaries of script, artwork and lettering instead using crisp graphic design to combine narrative illustration, various layers of text and informational (and anecdotal boxouts) to creative a very different kind of comic book, one which breaks down conventional panel barriers and eschews conventional comic book colouring and shading in favour of bold, unrealistic patterns. It’s very impressive – while the inset TV screens and open layouts are reminiscent of Howard Chaykin, Frank Miller and even Jim Steranko, Hickman pushes these stylistic choices to even less conventional places.

Graphs and boxouts are dropped in with cheeky commentary suggesting that you can, should you wish, just skip the facts and continue with the story. Other, smaller boxouts and captions draw the eye to key plot points, question the integrity of Hickman himself, and in one case apologises for the aforementioned disappointing cliffhanger resolution. These witty asides, alongside the flash and bang of the main thriller plotline, allow Hickman to explore serious questions of how human beings can be manipulated while never drifting into polemic.

‘The Nightly News’ is a page-turning contemporary thriller with one-foot in serious real world issues and the other pressed down hard on the pedal marked ‘Entertainment’. It’s an exciting, witty, visually engaging and thought-provoking read. Unreservedly recommended.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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