The New American came face to face with the turmoil and racism of the 1960s. Now, a decade later, the superhero climate is about to change again, and the American may be forced to pick a side once more… Your Major Spoilers review of The American Way: Those Above And Those Below #2 awaits!
Writer: John Ridley
Penciler: Georges Jeanty
Inker: John LIvesay/Danny Miki/Paul Neary
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in The American Way: Those Above And Those Below: “It’s been a decade since the Civil Defense Corps was exposed as a fraud created by the U.S. Government for propaganda purposes. While most of the heroes who survived the catastrophe have retired or disappeared, the New American still carries on, trying to keep communities safe amid the social turmoil of the 1970s. But with the nation split in two over civil rights and the changing political landscape, this isn’t easy. Some of the American’s former colleagues are on opposite sides of the law: Amber Waves joined a group of domestic terrorists, while Missy, a.k.a. Ole Miss, has thrown her hat into the political ring. As the ground shifts beneath his feet and new threats arise, which side will the American choose?
IN THE WAKE OF IMPOSSIBLE DECISIONS
We open in a courtroom as The New American (or at least Jason Fisher) is officially declared not guilty in the death of a man during one recent mission. Unfortunately for him, the man who died was a young black man and in letting him die, Jason saved a damn-near literal monster, causing the public to turn on him. His acquittal leads to unrest which leads to riots, leaving the city in flames. His former teammate, Amber Waves, has problems of her own, as her People’s Liberation Front has been declared the enemy, with one cell brutally wiped out in a show of force by the police. While her friends burn to death, Amber has to drag herself out of a drug-induced haze to retaliate, bombing the police station. All the while, the superhuman formerly known as Ole Miss has been given a terminal cancer diagnosis, but rather than reflect on her final days, she begins her run for governor, trying desperately to save the society that she loves…
A BEAUTIFUL BOOK THAT’S INCREDIBLY TIMELY
…which means her campaign slogan is “Heritage, Not Hate” and she announces her candidacy in front of a Confederate flag. When the first ‘American Way’ series came out ten years ago, I really enjoyed the parallels of sixties upheaval to the cultural shifts and difficulties we saw in the Bush administration. Now, this comic’s depiction of a violent 1970s world once again feels frighteningly relevant and contemporary. George Jeanty always delivers on the art front, but this issue is especially lovely, as we see a visibly ill Missy meeting with her doctor, and the presentation of the final days of lost hero Muscle Shoals are heartbreaking to see. There’s a real sense of weight and emotion to the pages, fitting the story’s gravitas, and the most terrible part of it all is that such realism makes it even clearer that Jason won’t be able to punch the forces of evil to a stop like many superhero comics.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A HARD READ, BUT WORTH IT
With a complex and nuanced take on race relations that feels even more relevant in recent weeks, The American Way: Those Above And Those Below #2 feels like a case of perfect timing, but there’s also great skill and craft in the story and the art, leaving us with a well-deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. This issue is an uncomfortable read, but one that succeeds in taking real world problems and the tropes of superhero comics and fitting them together in a way that examines both, reminds us that there are no easy answers and really has something important to say. Definitely worth your time…