GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Invisible Empire: Madge Oberholtzer and the Unmasking of the Ku Klux Klan

Insight. Sept. 2019. 112p. ISBN 9781683834472. pap. $24.99. Rated: Teen+. historical fiction
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In the early 1920s, D.C. Stephenson successfully promoted the Ku Klux Klan as a law-abiding, patriotic brotherhood dedicated to Christian values and job creation, eventually acquiring vast wealth and incredible political power. In reality, Stephenson was a vile, corrupt, and conniving thug. Madge Oberholtzer was an independent and idealistic young woman when she met Stephenson at the Indiana Governor’s Inauguration in January 1925. In March, he’d kidnapped her at gunpoint and raped and tortured her aboard his private train car, eventually releasing her under the assumption he was too powerful to be prosecuted. Oberholtzer died from her injuries, but not before going on the record accusing Stephenson of the crimes. The ensuing trial saw Stephenson found guilty of second-degree murder and exposed the depths of corruption in Indiana politics, as well as the true face of the Ku Klux Klan, resulting in a 90 percent drop in their membership and the end of the organizations’ political aspirations.
VERDICT Coauthors Neilson (World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen) and Warger at times favor overly expository dialog at the expense of plot and character development, but they ultimately present this important chapter in American history with a great deal of gravitas, aided by the photorealistic illustrations from Borstel (18 Days).

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