Run: Book One by John Lewis. Abrams, August 2021. 160 p. ill. ISBN 978-1419730696 (h/c), $8.74.
Alex O’Keefe, Research + Instruction Librarian, John M. Flaxman Library, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Reviewed July 2022
Picking up where March: Book Three left off, Run: Book One continues the biographical story of John Lewis from August 1965 through June 1966. As with the past series, Run follows the civil rights movement through Lewis’s experiences, offering readers a connection with the activists whose organizing and sacrifices shaped American history. Unlike March interweaving Lewis’ 2009 inauguration experiences, the contemporary framing device is removed. Instead, we are fully engrossed in stories of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s evolution, the beginnings of the Black Power movement, and the crossroads Lewis faces as the landscape of the larger movement changes.
Readers of the March trilogy will recognize the introduction’s artwork by Nate Powell, but the remainder of the book is L. Fury’s debut graphic novel. Fury does not draw exact replicas of Powell’s work, requiring readers to get reacquainted with returning characters. Fury’s care for details and characterizations shows through the precise, grayscale, ink wash drawings clearly informed by historically accurate reference images. This coupled with emotionally charged scenes makes the work feel fully aligned with the March books preceding Run. It often has a darker color palette, though, enhancing the mood of Lewis’s internal turmoil and a splintering social movement.
The returning writers, Lewis and Andrew Aydin, use their detailed narrative style to make the transition to this sequel series seamless. Readers who haven’t encountered March could enter Lewis’s story through Run, but March’s context improves the reading experience. Run: Book One is a great addition to collections holding graphic novels or civil rights history collections in academic libraries, public libraries, or special collections. In a public library context it should likely not be categorized below the teen level, as there are historical depictions of violence not suitable for young children.