March: Book One’ is a modern-day civil rights primer

J. Caleb Mozzocco

Four and a half stars

March: Book One By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell, $15.

A comic book played a small but important role in the civil rights movement during which Congressman John Lewis came of age, so there’s a certain justness to the fact that Lewis’ latest memoir of those times is being told in comics form.

That first comic was the 1957 Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, a primer on passive resistance published by Jim Lawson’s Fellowship of Reconciliation. Lewis encountered it when he and other students began working with Lawson in 1959, as he recounts in his new comic, March: Book One.

Lewis’ collaborators here are co-writer Andrew Aydin, who works in Lewis’ office, and artist Nate Powell, the acclaimed graphic novelist probably best known for Swallow Me Whole.

Their narrative moves back and forth between the day of Barack Obama’s first inauguration and Lewis’ life story, this first book covering his childhood up through the successful campaign to desegregate lunch counters through peaceful sit-ins (with a gripping peek at the attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge).

Part of the book’s conceit is that Lewis is telling his story to two young boys whose mother has taken them to visit his office on Inauguration Day, and that’s likely one of the reasons Aydin urged Lewis into telling his story in this medium. It’s a way to reach out to young people, not unlike Lawson’s MLK comic book more than 50 years ago.

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