Challenging the Norm: “Campaigners” #3 (Review)
Written by: Brendan Hykes
Art by: MJ Barros
Letters and Design by: Sean Rinehart
Editing and Consulting by: Mey Valdivia Rude
I want to know more about this world. Brendan Hykes has created a world that could read like a political thriller, a coming of age story or an action movie, but instead, Hykes along with Mey Valdivia Rude (editor and consultant) have created a rich and complex world that the reader is only seeing a sliver of. Hykes is telling a personal story around a broken and commercialized political system. The setup for Campaigners could be taking place right now: disaffect teens question the use and viability of the electoral system while struggling with a society that rejects who they personally are. The Campaigners is not set in today’s electoral climate, it is not even set in this time period. Hykes jumps ahead sixty years to the election of 2076 to tell the story of teenagers engaged in politics, but disgusted by the electoral system based on actual fights for debates. Gone are discussions of issues, policies, and even electoral pandering. Instead the election of 2076 is determined by who survives a MMA/UFC like fight for survival and dominance that favors strength and personality over issues and experience.
As someone who has worked on political campaigns and closely follows politics, Hykes story is unique. This is not common political satire or social commentary. By removing current settings, Hykes challenges ideas and systems, not people. This is a smart use of social and political commentary. Campaigners critiques us as a culture unwilling to accept those who do not fit into clean definitions, and us as citizens too willing to accept the excitement and emotion in politics rather than the policies and people. Campaigners is not pushing an agenda on the current political spectrum, it is pushing at the entire current political spectrum. Good satire and commentary should challenge the reader to questions assumptions while not making the reader feel stupid in the process. Hykes doesn’t bludgeon the reader with references or allusions to today’s world. Hykes along with Mey Valdivia Rude, serving as a transgender consultant, create a world that allows the reader to question the current social and political norms.
Issue #3 brings the protest of the debates and the debate fighting to a head. The story moves quickly, and presumes the reader knows that Kydra has spoken up about the electoral system and her friend Bee has tapped into a social media undercurrent of political disgust to create a protest movement. The art by MJ Barros is simple and clean, yet effective to draw emotion when needed. As the protest and the debate fight draw to a head, Barros’ work takes over and the story is told through images as much as dialog. Issue #3 is a success, but it cannot stand on its own.
Campaigners works as a graphic novel, but is challenged as a limited series through an indie press. Hykes clearly has a story to tell for these characters and for our society, unfortunately with an underfunded IndieGoGo campaign the conclusion of Campaigners is uncertain. If the series remains in limbo the questions it raises are worthwhile to consider. If the story of Kydra and Bee doesn’t have a conclusion, maybe that is part of the story. Social expectations, acceptance, and the American electoral process doesn’t have a neat and clean conclusion either. Time marches forward, but slowing down to consider the world Hykes has created may help us create a better world right now.