cover image The Stringer

The Stringer

Ted Rall and Pablo Callejo. NBM, $24.99 (152p) ISBN 978-1-68112-272-4

Taking a break from lefty manifestos and biographies, Rall (Snowden) presents a what-if fictional take featuring Mark Scribner, a disillusioned freelance journalist who flips to the dark side, as a “cautionary tale” and backhanded homage to jaded reporting vets. Believing journalism’s been gutted by corporate consolidation and the internet, and struggling to make ends meet, Mark employs his battle-zone-honed knowledge to stir up trouble by faking a Twitter fight between two Afghan warlords that sends the rockets flying. Perfectly situated to cover the battle that follows his “wag the dog”–style fakery, he revels in getting a big CNN check: “My first bonafide scoop, which I made happen... funded my divorce.” After fomenting a few more camera-ready conflicts, it’s a short hop, morality-wise, for Mark to indulge in arms dealing, convincing himself he’s just “sparking wars that would have happened anyway.” Mark’s swift success in these nefarious schemes can be hard to swallow, a stretch Rall acknowledges when an FBI agent snorts, “TV journalist turns warlord? Ridiculous.” The art by Callejo (the Bluesman series) lends a more polished and dramatic sweep than Rall’s usual solo shaggier style. The climax—layering deep-fake video deception, a stolen nuke, and a last-minute crisis of conscience—is well-crafted overkill. This biting, hard-boiled—if somewhat two-dimensional—character study delivers satire with bile to spare. [em](Apr.) [/em]