By Arpad Okay. Part one of Prez ends on its strongest issue yet. The series has had its share of starts and stops, but by the midseason finale it has achieved total satisfaction. It fits a large quantity of content into a single comic, but Prez has hit its stride and it integrates everything seamlessly. However, instead of being satisfied by the confirmation that this series has been worth the time invested, now I am wildly starved for more, more pages, more ideas from Mark Russell. It feels like there’s so much more to say and do. And yet the loose ends are tied. Everything fits. Prez has reached the full potential of its premise.
But nothing has changed, really. Prez remains a solid title, and this issue gives us what we keep coming back for. The usual bag of high-concept ideas. Corporate adversary Boss Smiley wants to monetize the freshly cataloged genetic code of everything and patent the profitable bits. Col. Sanders wants to be able to own the intellectual rights to chicken. How do you beat that? You buy them before they buy you.
The usual artwork of Ben Caldwell breathes otherworldly (yet familiar) life into the technology Russell dreams up. War Beast, who now goes by the name of Tina and wears a fetching blonde wig, looks like she stepped straight from the pages of Ghost in the Shell into our still advanced but considerably more mundane Cyberpunk Riverdale setting. Tina is total otherness, she looks like an exploded schematic, undeniably robot, but shaped enough like a human to have an equally unshakable visual presence as a person. The robot ennui is like the social commentary you get in Prez, not the newest ideas, but with time they develop into something more.
The whole series has touched on two issues that are brought together and into sharp focus: mortality and pet love. Subjects as important to us now as the people of 2036. Finding a solution to the cat flu epidemic is no easy task, as the Bob Ross Memorial Bill — named by Boss Smiley after the deceased father of the POTUS, a victim of cat flu — has been subverted into something that doesn’t help anyone (but Boss Smiley). A poignant riff on the hypocritical psychology of politicians that can easily sell legislature that otherwise encroaches on individual freedom. The pleasure of Prez is you get to see a world where the President is faced with injustice and willfully defies it. We would all want to say no in that position, to have enough power to stop the machine. Prez can and does.
But to stop the cat flu epidemic means to separate pets from their owners. Think taking guns away from people is hard? Now imagine taking away someone’s cat. The question of whether or not I could live without my dog is a funny, quirky, Prez way to get me to ponder a much deeper philosophical dilemma. That’s what this book does. It asks the hard questions in order to achieve a greater good.
Written by Mark Russell.
Art by Ben Caldwell.
Inks by Mark Morales.
Colors by Jeremy Lawson.
Letters by Travis Lanham.
8 out of 10