American Carnage #1 Review

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A public figure and philanthropist with ties to a dark movement. A woman going against orders to find a friend’s killer and uncover a secret conspiracy. A disgraced ex-FBI agent tasked with infiltrating a den of evil.  They all are actors on the stage in the drama known as AMERICAN CARNAGE #1, out now from DC Comics.

American Carnage #1 ReviewAMERICAN CARNAGE #1

Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover: Ben Oliver
Variant Cover: Rafael Albuquerque & Rico Renzi
Publisher:  DC Comics
Release Date: November 21, 2018
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in AMERICAN CARNAGE: With a setting that could be happening in the America of today, American Carnage takes a look the lengths people will go for their beliefs, revenge and a chance to grab power.

OUR STAGE IS SET, THE CURTAINS RISE…

Agent Curry sits in the FBI headquarters in Los Angeles, battered and bruised, lucky to be alive, and under scrutiny for her actions in a recent case which went south. Her superiors are performing a debriefing in regards to her actions during the questioning of white supremacist Ross Johnston at his home some days earlier. The man and his wife had outstanding warrants, but she wanted information on the murder Agent Bernard Watson. Watson was a fellow agent as well as a friend, lynched in front of his burning home. She had no way of knowing her suspect did not have to go to the bathroom like he said, or that his wife and baby were in an upstairs room, or that he kept a suicide vest in that room. The resulting explosion killed Johnston, his wife and baby child, and left Curry with her own injuries.  Agent Curry did not believe Johnston was the sole assailant in the murder of Agent Watson. She does believe he was murdered due to his own investigation into the extremist ties of noted philanthropist Wynn Allen Morgan. Unfortunately, her superiors in the FBI and the Attorney General have no interest in investigating those ties. Curry’s told to take some time off, heal from her injuries, and drop the investigation.

Later, elsewhere in Los Angeles, disgraced ex-FBI agent Richard Wright is trying to earn a living as a private investigator and heal his own wounds from a suspect shooting gone horribly wrong several years prior. A knock at his door turns out to be Agent Curry, and she wants to give him a chance to redeem himself. She proposes he go undercover and work his way into an activist group Wynn Morgan supports. Approaching Morgan after a speaking engagement at a local church, Wright begins to work his way into the organization. Will he find what Agent Curry is looking for or will his own secret cause him to fall victim to unrelenting hatred?

A MIX OF CRIME DRAMA, PERSONAL REDEMPTION, AND SOCIAL COMMENTARY

AMERICAN CARNAGE is brought to us from DC Comics under their Vertigo imprint and is for mature readers. Note that, mature readers. By the time you get to the second page, the most foul and despicable racial slur is emblazoned across the page. This is not done for shock value, but because it is part of the story. The unseen antagonist would use it, and to their credit, the creative team does not shy away from it. Writer Bryan Hill (Postal, The Wild Storm: Michael Cray) and artist Leandro Fernandez (The Punisher, Stormwatch: P.H.D.) set the rules for the story right off, there is no safe place. Hill has a history of pushing the bar in his writing, and sometimes making people uncomfortable, and American Carnage looks to be no exception. You will be uncomfortable reading this book. This is not a title you simply pick up, read, and move on from. The subject matter is difficult. The presentation is raw. It is a book to make you think, not a book for escapism.

Leandro Fernandez does a wonderful job in presenting the visuals for this world. There is a gritty feel that recalls classic titles such as 100 Bullets and The Losers. The angles are well thought-out, and the panel composition helps with the flow of the story. Additionally, there are some interesting Easter eggs dropped in the artwork that are essentially callbacks to people and events in our own world. Good work.

BOTTOM LINE: A TOUGH BOOK TO READ, BUT WORTH IT

The subject matter of AMERICAN CARNAGE is hard to deal with. There are images held within the story that may upset some readers. It does not shy away from the controversial and the underlying story. While the set-up should be familiar to many, it almost seems like a cheat, as if it is a sort of deranged, plot driven, evil Mary Sue. The writer gives you the antagonist, a wealth white philanthropist, author and public figure with ties to extremist groups. There is no discovery. There is no suspense. There is no satisfaction of the reveal. I would love to feel there was some other level to it, even just a few pages of investigation or some dark cabal possibly directing the actions and there may be, later. This is just the first issue, and there are plenty of opportunities for the story to present us with multiple red herrings and swerves, but its made clear that this is the initial big bad. Our protagonist are rather cookie cutter as well: an agent willing to defy her superiors to capture the bad guy and get revenge, and a disgraced agent willing to risk it all for a shot at unwanted redemption. The little things save them from becoming paper heroes. There is a hint at a history between the two and one holds a secret of his birth that can get him killed if its discovered. As much of a blank as the antagonist comes off as, the protagonists begin to make up for it. This book needs to grab you and draw you in, and this initial issue might not do that for everyone.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #1 is for mature readers. As such, it addresses themes and ideas that may be unsettling. That said there is a potential for a great dramatic tale to be told.

American Carnage #1

70%
70%
A Tough Book To Read

AMERICAN CARNAGE #1 is for mature readers. As such, it addresses themes and ideas that may be unsettling. That said there is a potential for a great dramatic tale to be told.

  • Writing
    6
  • Art
    8
  • Coloring
    7
  • User Ratings (0 Votes)
    0
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About Author

Back in February of 2008, Stacy Baugher wrote his first article for Major Spoilers and started a solid run of work that would last for over two years. He wrote the first series of Comic Casting Couch articles as well as multiple Golden Age Hero Histories, reviews and commentaries. After taking a hiatus from all things fandom he has returned to the Major Spoilers fold. He can currently be found on his blog, www.stacybaugher.com , were he post progress on his fiction work as well as his photography and life in general, and on Twitter under the handle @stacybaugher . If you're of a mind, he also takes on all comers with the under the Xbox Live Gamertag, Lost Hours. He currently lives in Clinton, Mississippi with his understanding wife, and two kids.

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