American Carnage #1
Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Review by Greg Brothers
It cannot be denied that there is a serious racial divide within the United States right now. The question is how deep is that divide. People’s personal experiences will greatly affect opinions as to how deep that divide is, but it is there. American Carnage #1 pulls no punches in its look at the deepest of those divides.
It would have been easy to take a subject like the cultural divide within the country and add more dramatic components to the story. Hill however pulls in the reigns and instead presents the beginnings of a story that is deeply rooted in reality of both the historical and current day issues within the United States. The dialogue when mixed with the visuals makes for an effecting read. Hill does not try to become philosophical about the choices that are being made, but instead he presents the story in simple terms that make it an easy read, no matter how difficult it is to swallow. The choice to switch between a debriefing of the actions and the actual actions allows for the brutality of the situation to maximize its impact on the reader.
Throughout the dialogue and the panels, the darkness of the story continues to hang over the characters. Even the man who is set up to be a protagonist is not a particularly likeable character. Meanwhile the antagonist does his job in getting your blood boiling as his public-versus-private persona is on full display. Part of that reason behind the anger raised is because of the realism that can be seen in some of the leaders both in politics and the private sector. The more optimistic reader may hope or believe that the setting is not as dire as presented through the wink and nod dialogue. The final panel, however, sharply reveals the bleakness of society.
The art shines in two particular places. The first of which is the use of facial expressions to tell the story. It is something that not every artist does well, but here the expressions show how the mental anguish is just as hard on the characters as the physical pain. The next is the imagery that is used throughout. As a reader you cannot help but to recoil as the image of a baby wrapped in a Nazi flag smacks you in the face. And just as you have recovered, you are assaulted with the full-page panel of a man hanging dead from a tree and his dead dog below him. If the dialogue and emotion displayed in the panels was not done as well as they were, the artist may have been accused of looking for shock value. Instead, here it serves again as a reminder as to how brutal these groups in question are.
Verdict: Buy it.
American Carnage #1 serves as a brutal reminder as to the direction many fear this country is heading towards. Hill is able to present the story in a way that does not feel inflammatory but instead gives us a real look at the dark side of the country. Some people may shy away from this book, but it is a story that needs to be addressed and explored. Hill seems to be up for the task as American Carnage should serve as a reminder that comics are about much more than superheroes.