Imagine the original Night of the Living set in the Depression — and without any fleshing-eating ghouls – and you have a sense of what Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon’s The Broadcast (NBM) is about. Set in rural Indiana the day and night of Orson Welles’ notorious “War of the Worlds” radio cast, the graphic novel strands a cast of ordinary folk in an isolated farmhouse, surrounded (they think) by hostile creatures, and lets ‘em go at each other. All very Maple Street, for those who remember that particular Twilight Zone episode.
The divisions — none too surprisingly, given The Broadcast’s period setting — work on class grounds. The house where our group of would-be survivors holes up is owned by Tom Schrader, the town’s rich man. Tom and his wife catch part of the Mercury Theatre’s broadcast, only to have the power go out in a storm before it’s all revealed to be a sci-fi Halloween play. Convinced that alien invaders are on their way, four different families — plus an elderly black man who shows up to add some racial tension into the mix — argue and fuss about who is going into Schrader’s storm cellar. The conflict grows more heated, and you just know (if only from the cover shot of a frightened farmer listening to a Zenith with a rifle in his hand) that it’ll ultimately grow violent.
Scripter Hobbs also tosses in a thwarted love between Schrader’s would-be writer daughter Kim and poor-but-honest son-of-a-farmer Gavin, which pretty much goes the way you’d expect it to. More intriguing are the panicky rural workers, Jacob and Dawson, who react quite differently to the news of imminent alien attack. Jacob, the closest to a villain that we have in the book, challenges Schrader over who gets to go into the shelter. His increasingly more desperate fear for the life of his little daughter would make him a sympathetic figure if he wasn’t painted as so whiny and pathetic.
Noel Tuazon’s sketchy, heavily gray-washed art neatly captures the look of an old and faded public domain movie, though at times the art works against the more active moments. Kind of like that cheapie DVD of NotLD you once bought at Dollar Tree, but without the added irritation of crackly, barely heard sound. It’s strong on the silent moments, though: a scene where Marvin, the black stranger in town, is threatened by two locals is particularly effective. Who needs Martians to do us in, The Broadcast asks, when you’ve got red-blooded American racists?