What would happen if your state’s senator got into a fist fight with their colleague or perhaps the President of the United States? Of course, we would want to know how it started and if there is any video evidence online, but there would likely be legal repercussions for such violence. But when society goes down the tubes and glorifies violence within the government, would you follow your local politician or be disgusted with the world?  Written by Chuck Brown (known for Bitter Root and Rotten Apple) and illustrated by Prenzy and Clayton Cowles, the first volume of On the Stump offers a very grim look at American politics when violence and mayhem legally exist within its halls. Readers who are interested in alternate histories will want to see how it wound up this way. But the book’s graphic violence, lack of details, and quick-paced storytelling will leave readers confused.

In an alternative United States, debates between politicians no longer involve words, but punches, kicks, and body slams. Taking place on stages called stumps (which usually look like huge tree stumps), spectators take bets on the fights and cheer for their favorite fighters. But things may change if Senator Thunder Bearer’s new law is passed. Called the Slay Act, it will legalize stump fights to the death. Standing in the senator’s way are an FBI agent, members of a secret organization called The Blacksmiths, nosey journalists, and Senator Jack Hammer, who may be the only politician who wants to make the world a better place.

Brown’s depiction of the United States of America is not for the faint of heart. Violence has become a religion for a few people, literature and history has been rewritten or banned, and senators are powerful, strongmen with genetic enhancements and a thirst for violence. But as with any government body, bribes are exchanged, companies play a part in political plans, and enemies are eliminated, keeping the population unaware of the truth. It’s a lot to take in, especially for readers who shy away from government conspiracy stories and alternate histories. The book’s multiple interconnected storylines can be hard to follow. Formal introductions to most of the characters are not present, leaving readers confused over who is on whose side. Formal introductions to most of the characters are not present, leaving readers confused over who is on whose side. There is additional material in appendix to the comic containing this helpful information.

Despite a few bumps in the storytelling, the artwork combined with the intended plot work very well together. Prenzy’s art adds to the brutality of the world. Fight scenes with forceful punches and kicks create torrents of blood spewing from unfortunate victims and lost body parts. The cast of diverse characters range from beefed up male senators with costumes taken from the backlot of the WWE and limber ladies with amazing fighting skills and experience with various weapons like guns and swords. Depending on the scenes, the artist may use a lot of details for the character’s expressions and actions or just a small stick figure observing from the background. As for Cowles’ lettering, comic onomatopoeia is used frequently, especially during scenes of violence and extreme emotion. The backmatter contains designs and background information on the main characters as well as short essays written by professors and lecturers about the comic’s premise and its relation to today’s political and social climate.

Librarians should consider On the Stump Vol.1 as an addition for their adult graphic novel collections. The series has an interesting premise and artwork but it is not for everyone, especially those who may be averse to bloody violence. However, its dystopian setting, alternate history, extreme fight scenes, and government corruption storyline will attract those who enjoy these themes in their graphic novel choices.

On The Stump Vol. 1 
By Chuck Brown
Art by Prenzy and Clayton Cowles
ISBN: 9781534316089
Image, 2020
Publisher Age Rating:
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Character Traits: African-American

  • Gloria

    | She/Her Children's Librarian, Elmont Memorial Library

    Gloria is a full-time children’s librarian at the Elmont Memorial Library in Long Island, New York where she runs a monthly STEAM program, a graphic novel book club, and storytime for preschoolers. During her free time, she is found reading anything and everything from the classics, to poetry, to the newest best seller. Her other interests include writing, online games, exploring new areas in her home state, and spending time with friends, family, and colleagues. She has also written articles and reviews for the website Cosplay, Comics, and Geek Culture in Libraries and on her personal Goodreads page.

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