Matt Battaglia’s Debut Graphic Novel Imagines A Dark, Not-Too-Distant Future of Lockdowns and Lawlessness

(ST PAUL, MN) — The madness of the Covid-19 pandemic in America might just have produced its first piece of great art. HOUSE ON FIRE, the debut graphic novel by writer and artist Matt Battaglia, forces us to confront a dystopian future that’s dangerously closer than we want to believe.

In HOUSE ON FIRE (Living the Line Books, March 28, 2023), Battaglia conjures up his world – our world – with wild two-color brushwork reminiscent of the great Paul Pope and a minimalist writing style that evokes and questions rather than lectures.

“Living the Line books focuses on unique, personal books that are intensely visual, and Matt Battaglia’s House on Fire fits that bill,” says Living the Line publisher Sean Michael Robinson. “House on Fire’s passionate delivery always moves the pages forward, each page a performance in ink, where his brush’s movement across the page is visible. This gives the whole book, but the action scenes in particular, a tightrope quality that is increasingly rare in a world more and more focused on perfection of performance.”

But more than an artistic achievement, HOUSE ON FIRE is a strong statement on the value of human life in a fallen world, where fear is rational and “safety” only comes with obedience to the state.

Battaglia’s protagonist leaves his rural home to travel to the lawless land that was once a bustling metropolis, in an attempt to obtain black-market medicine for his wife – sick with the unnamed contagion that brought the world to its knees.  As we journey along with him, we learn just how sick the whole world has become. He presents his papers and medical clearance to pass military checkpoints, he makes deals in the new barter economy, he falls in with the criminal underworld, he makes split-second decisions about life and death.

And yet his world is frighteningly recognizable to us. Amazon-esque delivery trucks still roam the highways.  Regular drivers are relegated to “Smart Car”-style automobiles favored by environmentalists. The anti-police slogan “ACAB” is scrawled on the walls of the city’s no-man’s land.  His drive takes him – and us – through the ashes of our world into a dark new one.

Battaglia wanted his story to be rooted in our current reality, with the hope that our future looks different. “Between the start of this book and the publication of it, I became a father,” Battaglia explains. “It will be a long while before she can read this book. I hope that when she can, it will feel more like fiction and less like reality, that she won’t have a frame of reference for it, she’ll ask what was going on, and I can reminisce about this strange distant piece of history, and she can reply ‘That really happened?’”

HOUSE ON FIRE will be available in a 100-page softcover and will retail at $16 USD. The book will be released in stores late March. Living the Line’s website will also feature a signed version by writer/artist Matt Battaglia.

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