Comic Review – American Carnage #1 (DC Vertigo)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

“Welcome to the REAL America” Jennifer Morgan

Cover art by Ben Oliver (DC Vertigo)

I did not expect to pick up a comic book like this on the DC app store. We live in a highly partisan era and comic books should never be overlooked as a medium to explore the more uncomfortable tones we have to deal with this political climate. In fact, they have the potential to be a great medium to do so, able to deliver deeply personal stories backed up with art to depict distressing and challenging scenes that will leave you with a page open in front of you, needing to take a moment for it to sink in. Unlike books which lack the visual element or TV which moves at its own pace, the reader is in control of how long they take on each page, confronting each issue.

American Carnage does not shy away from contentious issues, and based on the first instalment, I applaud DC Vertigo for publishing this. I hope this series maintains its critical themes and stance it has set out with. This comic is bought to us by:

  • Story – Bryan Hill
  • Art – Leonardo Fernandez
  • Colour – Dean White
  • Lettering – Pat Brosseau
  • Cover – Ben Oliver

Agent Sheila Curry of the FBI has just witnessed the death of the prime suspect in her ex-partner’s murder, a man part of a far-right hate group who carried out a gruesome killing. The FBI are ordering the investigation to be closed, however Curry suspects links to a populist ‘libertarian’ celebrity/philanthropist who is leading a Trump-esque anti-establishment campaign with suspected ties to these far-right groups. Hill does not pull his punches. This comic sets up the far-right as the bad guys they are, and refers to the likes of Morgan as a potential ‘MAGA true believer’. Curry seeks the help of Richard Wright, an ex-FBI officer who lost his place on the force a few years before. He’s a mess, but he is good at what he does – infiltrate groups, become part of their fabric and report back. Curry wants him in to investigate Morgan.

Art by Fernandez and White (DC Vertigo)

A lot of the language used throughout this issue could have been ripped straight from angry right-wing Twitter nuts, extremist TV personalities or what you would expect to see in the Daily Mail comment section, which does prove uncomfortable reading at times. As Wright is wrapped up more and more into this world his disgust is unmissable in every panel. This is communicated through Fernandez’s art, who demonstrates a talent for expressing emotion through facial expression. There is a subtlety in his work, shown in panel after panel of interview showing the emotional pain on Curry’s face during the opening pages. Fernandez’s work is supported by White’s colours, providing a gritty tone while avoiding the standard brown and grey colour pallet seen in some series.

Final Verdict

This comic treats the issues involved with the gravity they deserve. It feels genuine and has the potential to be something special. It builds incredibly to a hell of a cliff-hanger, and I hope it sticks true to the serious tone it has set. I feel this would be lost if either magic or Mecha-Hitler are secretly behind this all. This is a story about modern right-wing extremists and their presentation within the media that feels way too real at this point in time.

This series is bound to receive some negative press by the worst parts of the internet, but that is a good thing. After all, if you’re challenging extreme right ideology, and pissing off Nazis, you’re doing something right.