by Van Jensen and Nate Powell
November 2019 – Gallery 13 / Simon & Schuster (US)
On a snowy New Year’s Day, 1947, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Police Chief O. N. Martin gunned down his lieutenant, Jack Deubler, and then killed himself.
Little Rock is a city rife with organized crime, an offshoot of the large mafia presence in nearby Hot Springs (which was Vegas before Vegas existed). Amid this uneasy balance of power a sudden act of violence—a murder inside a gambling parlor—escalates police and mafia tensions, as they lash out seeking to destroy the other. As the violence worsens, the Chief de-scends farther into the depths of schizophrenia. He sees a rising force of darkness coming to claim the city, and he grows ever more desperate to stop it, by any means…
TWO DEAD is the story of an all-white police department struggling to safeguard a city, when half of its residents fear them—a racial tension that is as relevant as ever today amid the Black Lives Matter movement. It is at its core a true-crime mystery, a roman à clef told in the same vein as The Green River Killer (Vertigo) and the popular podcast Serial.
Van Jensen is a former crime reporter at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper in Little Rock, Arkansas. He has gone on to write for and edit magazines. Breaking into comic books in 2009 with the acclaimed Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer graphic novel series, Jensen has gone on to write some of the biggest characters in comics, including The Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, and James Bond. Other series he has created include Cryptocracy (Dark Horse) and Valkyrie Beer Delivery (Stela). Jensen also writes and directs for film and TV. A native of Western Nebraska, he lives in Atlanta.
Nate Powell is the first cartoonist ever to win the National Book Award. His Eisner Award–winning work includes civil rights icon John Lewis’s historic March trilogy, Come Again, and viral comics essay About Face, as well as Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole, and The Silence of Our Friends. Powell’s work has also received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Michael L. Printz Award, two Ignatz Awards, four YALSA Great Graphic Novels For Teens selections, the Walter Dean Myers Award, and is a two-time Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. He has discussed his work at the United Nations, as well as on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, PBS, CNN, and Free Speech TV. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana. Visit him at SeeMyBrotherDance.org.
“The knotty story shows the traumas of the past shaping the present, some panels literally haunted by specters. Fresh from his work on John Lewis’ acclaimed March trilogy, Powell applies a pleasingly realistic look while cartoonish flourishes electrify the page. Jensen weaves a propulsive narrative of intersecting stories and festering wounds that […] is highly engaging. Good pulp.”—Kirkus Reviews