Media Plague | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

Culture » Arts & Entertainment

Media Plague

Jonathan Hickman launches an innovative anti-heroic attack on The Nightly News.



As the old saying goes, one man’s hero is another man’s villain. The Nightly News tries to play that notion for all it’s worth but sometimes loses focus on who’s who. In this political thriller-style comic, Jonathan Hickman gives dissenters a voice and lashes out at corporate news with all its faults and biases. The media should be the villain, but the paranoid soldiers in this war aren’t exactly hero material, and the line between right and wrong gets thinner by the page.


John Guyton, the so-called hero of the story, had reached his lowest point: crippled by the news media and left using a dog bowl to beg for change on the street. That was life'until Alexander Jones showed up and made him an offer to change everything. Guyton would become “The Hand” in a secret organization, working for a man known only as “The Voice” and asked to carry out his instructions. Those instructions tell Guyton that he is at war with the media, and that it must be destroyed.


Hickman is a name new to comics'this is his first one'and he has come out swinging with style to burn. He makes certain that his book doesn’t look like anything else on the stands, and the pages are filled to bursting, almost as if Guyton’s mind is literally spread across the page. Some of the best features are the graphs and charts added to enhance one’s understanding of what he fires off at a rapid pace: a few “greatest hits” moments in erroneous news reports or a spotlight on children’s use of Ritalin in America. Mix those well-placed moments with gritty, photo-realistic character design, and you see Hickman’s talent.


Since the art has a refreshing, unique look, it’s easy to overlook some of the flaws in the story itself. The Voice'the institution that sets this whole story in motion'comes across like a deranged religious cult. The sheer emotional detachment that any and all of the characters display makes them tough to root for, and who the good guys are becomes tough to distinguish. Also, for a book that makes a big deal of how the media will make a story out of anything they can get their hands on, the story is surprisingly quiet when prominent journalists begin getting picked off one by one.


Watching Guyton become brainwashed by a cult to take on the drones of corporate media proves interesting, but the extremes they display aren’t exactly admirable. What is admirable, though, is the way Hickman has announced his arrival to the genre. The Nightly News, with its righteous cure that isn’t much better than the disease, isn’t a comic you’ll soon forget. And for Hickman, that should be the most important victory.


nJonathan Hickman