THIS REVIEW OF ‘BURY THE LEDE’ IS SPOILER-FREE.
by Lauren Fernandes. How to Read Bury the Lede:
Step 1: Take all of your obvious tropes about female heroines, cops and reporters, and put them in a box.
Step 2: Chuck that box in the trash.
Step 3: Read Bury the Lede. Enjoy.
BOOM! Studios is setting the pace for a new line of graphic novels targeted at adults with Bury the Lede. This crime drama is written by Gaby Dunn, who has done a little bit of everything but will mostly likely pop on Google with hits for her podcast Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn, two novels (I Hate Everyone But You, and Please Send Help) and as a writer for the Netflix comedy series Big Mouth. Dunn’s portfolio is broad, with podcasts, comedy sketches, novels, vlogs, a successful acting career and successful journalism projects tucked neatly under her belt.
I think it’s safe to say this powerhouse writer can successfully add comics to her breadth.
Bury the Lede is chock-full of wonderfully flawed, complex characters. I love nothing more than a main character that I don’t necessarily like, and a villain that I like more than I should. Madison Jackson is a round-faced intern at The Boston Lede who finds herself wrapped up in a murder investigation (and the scoop of the century) with the prominent socialite and apparent killer, Dahlia Kennedy. Madison is thoughtfully developed throughout the novel, gaining clout and backbone in her hungry pursuit of her career, while simultaneously blurring the lines on her integrity and pushing her family aside. Meanwhile, Dahlia sits in an orange jumpsuit under stark lighting on a pedestal behind glass. She lures in Madison, manipulates her masterfully, and drags me in as well. I want to know more about her, to piece together her brain in the same morbid way I want to know anything about a killer’s brain.
Another fabulous piece of this collaboration is the prominence of not just women, but women of color and LGBT characters. It’s not something that’s put in the spotlight, but an element that blends perfectly into this world of multifaceted characters. It’s like Dunn and the artist, Claire Roe, have pieced together a quilt, taking care to work in many patterns and textures and layers with their story, without making any of them feel overworked. In this interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the editor Dafna Pledan sums it up beautifully:
“The world is filled with very human, complex people, who just happen to be women. It’s not a world that forgets that sexism and racism is still alive and well, but it’s also not the only factor, or even the prime factor, defining their character arcs or lives. Every character in this story wants something, and sometimes that comes at the expense of other relationships in their lives.”
Claire Roe delivers characters with such awesome, distinct styles. Lexington Ford’s swanky, androgynous outfits and sharp haircut fit her like a glove, and Madison’s oversized frumpy sweaters, big round specs, and feminist-repping t-shirts add a level to her character that we simply wouldn’t get otherwise. It’s not that Dunn has written flat characters, I’ve already covered that. It’s that Roe’s imagining and touches bring them to life, make them believable and real. It’s the difference between a selfie with one of those weird filters that make your skin look like plastic, and a true photo that shows a person’s pores, freckles, the crinkles by their eyes. One is human, the other is artificial.
All of the design choices in these characters were intentional, as an added element to the story-telling, rather than ways to fill a page and make it interesting (which Roe still does, let there be no mistake.) There are moments where our characters escape their frames, or where color washes down behind the panels. All of it serves to keep our murder mystery in motion. It keeps us leaning forward, turning pages, waiting for the next tip. I’m not sure who to credit for the use of social media feeds (in addition to newspaper headlines) as a way to show the momentum gained in the case, but it’s done masterfully. I read them all.
If you’re a person that has ever binge-watched Law and Order: SVU, this might be the graphic novel for you. I don’t care if you think you’re not into comics. Read anyway. And if you are into comics? Also read. Because not only does Bury the Lede serve up a great killer and a questionable protagonist, it leaves you hanging, waiting for the next call on the police scanner. It makes you wonder where the lines for humanity are drawn within each of us, and how easily we could be pushed from protagonist to villain.
It makes you wonder if Gaby Dunn will write more comics.
BOOM! Studios/ $19.99
Written by Gaby Dunn.
Art by Claire Roe.
Colors by Miquel Muerto.
Letters by Mike Fiorentino.
7.5 out of 10
Check out this 10-page preview of ‘Bury the Lede’, courtesy of BOOM! Studios!