Bury the Lede
Jillian Crab (designer), Gaby Dunn (writer, creator), Mike Fiorentino (letterer), Miquel Muerto (colourist), Dafna Pleban (editor), Claire Roe (illustrator)
October 2, 2019
Bury the Lede is BOOM! Studios’ debut in the publisher’s new focus on adult, original content. Given the studios’ big titles such as Giant Days and Lumberjanes, Bury the Lede is definitely a change in course and demographics. It follows Madison Jackson, a twenty-one-year-old intern working at The Boston Lede newspaper. Playing with the journalistic term, Bury the Lede misguides the focus a little with Madison’s introduction. She initially fits the stereotypical role of a diminutive young, queer Asian woman, easily stepped on and looked over by the more aggressive journalists in the newspaper’s office. This all changes when a murder suspect decides to confide in Madison, and only Madison. And while solving the mystery of the murder is the goal writer Gaby Dunn focuses on, the meat of the story lies with the evolution and revelation of who Madison really is.
As it turns out, Madison is anything but the mousy character she seems to be. When elite socialite Dahlia Kennedy starts feeding Madison information about the death of Dahlia’s husband and the whereabouts of her missing child, Madison understands that Dahlia may or may not be manipulating her, but getting that story becomes her pinpoint focus. Like other famous comic book investigative reporters before her, Madison is willing to take risks, but her approach is very different. Lacking the empathy of a character like Lois Lane, or simply too focused on proving herself as a journalist, Madison barrels through her sources, supports, and advisors with little concern for how it might affect her relationship with them—and how it might affect their own lives. From police officer to siblings to colleagues, it becomes hard to tell who the bad guy actually is, as Madison’s interactions with Dahlia Kennedy escalate.
Not that Dunn takes Madison to the point of criminal intent herself. But Madison’s singular focus and willful decisions to accept the hurt she inflicts on friends, lovers, and family alike makes her a deliciously unlikable character. Seeing how far this young intern is willing to go as each page turns shapes an image of the future she so desires. Getting that coveted byline on such a big story will make her career. Given the bridges she’s willing to burn, her actions will ensure she stays on top of the game, but will also make sure she’ll be very much alone there. Dunn’s writing begs the question of whether or not this is Madison’s true nature, or just the misguided hyperfocus of a twenty-one-year-old who really, really wants the job and is seduced by a master manipulator. Madison interacts with several veteran reporters who try to advise her through their own experiences, but she still clearly has a lot to learn.
The mystery of the Kennedy family murders becomes secondary to Madison’s story, but Dunn still allows the reader to play detective as the case unravels into something far greater, connecting to current politics in the book, and past tragedies. Those connections come to a crashing crescendo at the end that could have been teased out a bit more liberally, but the story still holds together well overall.
Claire Roe pays meticulous attention to the people in the panels of interrogations, interviews, and research. Body language and expressions convey as much as words. Backgrounds are simplistic, allowing Miquel Muerto to really work the colour schemes from page to page, switching back and forth from warm to cool colours to guide the mood of each frame. When he leans in to darker tones, there is a definite noir vibe that serves the detective story aspect well.
Sex, murder, and an ambitious protagonist willing to make unethical choices to get that story certainly make for far more adult content than we’re used to from BOOM!, but Bury the Lede is a great start for the publisher’s new venture.