For Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell – the creators of March: Book 2 – it’s all about moving forward.
For all that is impressive about March: Book 2, the most astonishing feat that the graphic novel accomplishes is that it never loses focus. It never makes it about Rep. John Lewis (even though it’s an autobiographical account of his experiences during the Civil Rights era). It never paints the Civil Rights Movement in broad strokes (showing protesters having doubts and deep-southern racists having flashes of humanity). In turn, March: Book 2 approaches the Civil Rights era in the 1960’s with such weight and thoughtfulness that it’s not only one of the best books to come out on the era in recent years, it also makes it one of the most important.
March: Book 2 is the second in a trilogy of graphic novels chronicling Rep. Lewis’ experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. The second installment specifically focuses on The Freedom Riders of the early 1960’s and the Birmingham Church Bombing in September 1963.
It’s created by Rep. Lewis and his longtime congressional aid Andrew Aydin (co-writers), along with veteran comic artist Nate Powell (illustrator). All three men show great execution in March through the meticulous detail that book two presents. Details like when the younger generation of civil rights protesters talk about their parents’ concerns over joining the movement, the language and the font itself changes when they start paraphrasing their elders. It’s small, yet distinctive choices like these that create such a fully realized world giving the reader credence to treat this as more of an historical account and less of a retelling. Similar to how someone would view a documentary over a major motion picture on the same subject.
March goes further with this idea of an historical account by depicting humbling portrayals of many larger than life figures in US history. Civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr are portrayed as regular individuals struggling with their own idiosyncrasies, instead of the usual myth like quality most books showcase them as. It not only gives appreciation to the idea that the Civil Rights Movement was the work and sacrifice of many individuals, but it also depicts a certain heroism that is lost when other works mythicize notable figures. March’s Dr. King is someone who battled his own fears and demons to be one of the individuals that made the Civil Rights Movement possible.
Yet if I were to synthesize the essence of March: Book 2 it would be this one panel.
It comes at the end of the book when Rep. Lewis recounts the time he spoke at the March on Washington in 1963. It’s a melancholy moment in where Rep. Lewis realizes that even though all the sacrifice and hard work had led the movement to this pivotal moment in US history, he can’t help but look back at those individuals (aka The Big Six) and realize that he’s the only one that remains. It’s a moment in March that makes you realize that the Civil Rights Movement isn’t just a place in time, but a lesson in taking what’s important into heart and moving forward. It’s that idea that separates March: Book 2 from almost every other historical account. It’s also what makes March: Book 3 all that more of a wait.
(Photo Credits: Top Shelf Productions)