“You’d sell [Mount Boring] for pennies now, because you think it’s lost its value. But that land is priceless. That volcano barely touched it–you were the one to desecrate it” — Rex Huron to Chase Hedgeburn, Picket Line, p. 249.
|Creator(s)||Breena Wiederhoeft (author)|
|Publisher||Easel Ain’t Easy|
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Anthropomorphism, Deforestation, Environmental Activism, Habitat Destruction, Natural Disaster, Corporations, Sustainably Produced Text|
|Protagonist’s Identity||Bea: White female protagonist in her early twenties|
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 5: High Environmental Agency and Activism|
|Target Audience||Young Adult|
Picket Line is Breena Wiederhoeft’s debut graphic novel, published after she received a 2011 Xeric Award, a self-publishing grant for comic book creators. At the beginning of the comic, recent college graduate Beatrice moves from Wisconsin to Northern California in a quest to find meaning for her life. There, she meets the aptly named Rex Huron, a man who has extremely short arms and who Wiederhoeft frequently visually represents as a cartoonish Tyrannosaurus Rex. Despite his fearsome namesake, Rex is a kind, environment-loving man, and he hires Beatrice to work for his landscaping company. Soon, Rex lands a contract with Chase Hedgeburn, the scion of a wealthy California family. The Hedgeburns own the fictional Mount Boring, a dormant volcano, and vast swaths of land surrounding it. Though Chase’s father promised to donate the land to the government to transform into a public state park, Chase went to court and won the land after his father’s death. Now, Chase plans to develop the forest and construct condos. Rex disagrees with these plans, but he accepts a job with Chase anyway, telling Beatrice, “Working closely with him within his company, I might be able to appeal to his decency, you know? I would like to see him open his land to the public. I’d like him to reconsider his plans for development… I’m going to save [the forest]” (Wiederhoeft 24-25).
Beatrice doubts the sincerity of Rex’s claims, but she continues to work for him, traveling to Mount Boring to work with the landscaping crew. However, environmental activists gather outside the property fence each day, hindering the landscapers’ attempts to get to work. Soon, Beatrice, Rex, and other crew members move onto the property to avoid encountering the protestors each day. Immersed in nature, Beatrice’s affection for the forest grows stronger. She narrates, “I started thinking about the state of the forest more once we moved into the lodge and were actually living in the middle of it. I saw the Redwoods as my new neighbors. My giant, towering neighbors” (Wiederhoeft 83). However, Rex’s plan to save the forest by swaying Chase fails. Loggers soon arrive and begin cutting down the forest. Beatrice grows increasingly dissatisfied with Rex’s inaction, and she visits the picket line to speak with the protestors, who criticize Rex’s empty promises. Sickened by the deforestation and angry at Rex, she quits her landscaping job.
Beatrice soon finds a new job as a member of the picket line, literally repositioning herself on the opposite side of the fence that surrounds the mountain. Soon after her departure, Mount Boring experiences a small eruption. However, an investigation reveals that the eruption was staged, and the police arrest Rex as their primary suspect. When Beatrice and Rex’s wife visit in him prison, the volcano genuinely erupts for the first time in 300 years in a deus ex machina plot twist, forcing the town to evacuate. Relocated to a hotel out of town, Rex, Chase, and Beatrice meet at the bar for a final confrontation. Rex reveals that he has evidence that Chase has paid off judges and threatens to give all of the evidence to the police unless Chase turns himself in for faking the eruption. Chase goes to jail on minor charges and the court returns the land to the people of California, who transform the area into a state park. In the comic’s final pages, Rex lands a position as a park ranger, and Beatrice returns to work for him to help restore the land. However, Beatrice observes that only 5% of the forest’s old growth survived the eruption, meaning that their rescue of the land is a somewhat hollow victory.
The copyright page states, “Printed in the United States on 100% recycled paper.”
Clough, Rob. “Picket Line.” The Comics Journal, 5 June 2012, http://www.tcj.com/reviews/picket-line/.