From the writer and artist of Fallout (2015) comes a graphic novel inspired by true events at a Louisiana prison during Hurricane Katrina.
It’s August 2005, and Russ is an inmate of the Orleans Parish Prison. While he’s performing housekeeping duties, guards instruct him to help board up some of the prison’s windows because Hurricane Katrina is nearing landfall. Meanwhile, at the St. Bernard Parish Juvenile Detention Center, 16-year-old Sydquan discusses the possibility of release with his family and lawyer. To leave the detention center, they tell him that he must confess to a crime he didn’t commit. Instead, Syd remains silent and does time for the actions of another kid. This leaves him among a group of other juveniles who are bussed to safety at the Orleans Parish Prison. While serving the kids food, Russ is surprised to see Syd, his son, born shortly after his own jail term began; Syd, however, wants nothing to do with his absentee father. Then, when Katrina floods the prison and it loses power, the inmates must escape their cells or drown in sewage-tainted water. An uneasy truce forms between father and son as they navigate the chaos of the prison, only to face storm-ravaged New Orleans. Writer Walker and artist Oliveira do a fantastic job of immediately establishing the friction between inmates and keepers; for example, when Russ points out that he’s just mopped the floor, a guard asks, “You say something, midnight? Come speak into the mic, if something’s on your mind.” Generally, the dialogue is just tight enough to allow Oliveira’s black-and-white illustrations to do the narrative heavy lifting. A combination of fine linework and silhouettes gives characters a remarkable range of facial expressions and hand gestures, occasionally reminiscent of artist Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets, 2014, etc.). The story’s first half highlights the mismanagement of the prison, while the second shows the plight of neighborhoods destroyed by Katrina. Russ’ soul-searching helps readers find an uplifting ending, although plenty of cursing and gun violence mark this read for older teens and adults.
Excellent as both an action piece and a crime drama.