What to say about this novel? Besides the fact that everyone should read it?
Based on a true story (more than one), this novel relates the work of an African-American reporter who is able to pass as white, allowing him to go undercover at lynchings. Johnson deals deftly with the issue. What moves the story is the relationship between the various characters. Pleece's artwork is a good match to the story. The use of black and white illustration is far more effective and powerful than color.
Zane and Carl's relationship lies at the central of the novel as does the relationship (if that is the correct word) between the races in the South. Some critics have pointed out that one subplot of the book could have used more attention, and perhaps there is some truth to that, but I don't see how that could have been done in the space and structure of the story. Perhaps Carl's story is a bit predictable, but both his character and Zane act like real people (as does everyone in the comic).
The ending is both moving and great.
Renaissance, though published later, is a prequel. It deals with passing and cultural theft. While it might lack the emotional impact of the first book, it does address heavy issues and does it well. It also focuses on the question of a woman in the times to a far greater degree than the first book.