Former FBI Agent Richard Wright, wracked by guilt and adrift in the world, finds himself agreeing to infiltrate a white supremacist organization.  Very quickly, he finds himself faced with impossible decisions; but if he is to live and redeem himself, he will need to do whatever it takes to bring down the men and women who see him less than human.

American Carnage #3 ReviewAMERICAN CARNAGE #3

Story: Bryan Hill
Art:  Leandro Fernandez
Color: Dean White
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: January 23rd, 2019
Price: $3.99

Previously in American Carnage: Richard Wright left the FBI after the accidental death of a black man.  Since then, he has worked as a private investigator, adrift and searching for meaning while struggling with his mixed-race heritage.  Agreeing to infiltrate a white supremacist organization, he soon finds himself facing an impossible task – attacking an African-American at the behest of those he hopes to bring down.

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

Richard Wright’s grandfather was an African-American and his grandmother was white.  As a boy, as he says while being interviewed for an undercover position as an FBI agent, he had to navigate between those two worlds, presenting whatever face to whoever he confronted just so he could survive.  And that is exactly what he has to do, working undercover within a despicable white supremacist organization, seeking to inveigle himself with the very people who would delight in killing him based on his heritage.

American Carnage takes its name from Donald Trump’s inauguration speech (two years ago this week, fact fans).  Usually an opportunity for a new President to sound notes of unity, this particular speech spoke to a darker American than most Americans would recognize.  Nonetheless, it did speak to certain undercurrents in American society, undercurrents which, in places like Charlottesville, came to the surface with shocking effect.

And what American Carnage #3 is, if nothing else, is shocking.  Unrelentingly bleak, it opens with Wright placed in the position of being forced to badly injure a black man the racists he has fallen in with have captured.  And that’s not the worst of it.  A series of events leads to the death of the captive, at Richard’s hands and the resulting cleanup he is forced to play a part in.

Other aspects of the book are equally confronting.  There are the flashbacks where Wright is forced to justify his wish to go undercover as an FBI agent; how as a mixed race man, he has had to navigate his way through a world that won’t accept him in either camp.  There is the aftermath of the captive’s murder, with a man in a Barack Obama mask appearing to force Wright into becoming the fall guy.  And there are the final pages where an attack on the home of Wright’s white patron nearly ends in the death of a child.

VULNERABLE

There’s a terrible sense of vulnerability in American Carnage #3.  There’s Richard, who is now being blackmailed overshooting the captive.  There’s Jennifer, daughter of the white supremacist heading the organization Richard has infiltrated and his right-hand man, who survives an attack on her and her daughter, Amy.  There’s Agent Curry, who worked with Richard and convinced him to come back, refusing to acknowledge the diagnosis of a debilitating illness.  Not only the characters but America itself, feels vulnerable.  When you are in the belly of the beast, it’s hard to find any sliver of light, any hope of redemption.

Writer Bryan Hill pulls no punches with his story, crafting a bleak and violent world filled with characters either delighting in the upheaval they represent or desperate to survive and escape it.  And artist Leandro Fernandez’s art is vital and vigorous, especially in the action scenes that open the issue.  There’s an effective use of light and shade, representing Richard’s precarious attempts to straddle two incompatible worlds.  A lot of the imagery, particularly the last page, is confronting, but if we look away, how can we adequately confront the dark forces ebbing and flowing around us.

BOTTOM LINE – SOBERING

Coming out under the DC Vertigo banner, American Carnage #3 is a confronting, oftentimes distressing issue, which nonetheless is important.  Oftentimes in periods of great peril or upheaval, it is our artists who can bring meaning to the strife around us, distilling the confusion into one strong image or work that speaks to everyone in a universal language.  American Carnage #3 forms part of a work of art that in time will enable future readers to look back in one attempt to understand the movements and moments, those of us living today tried to comprehend.  Painful, punishing, but absolutely riveting, American Carnage may be the comic book of our times.

American Carnage

80%
80%
Sobering

Coming out under the DC Vertigo banner, American Carnage #3 is a confronting, oftentimes distressing issue, which nonetheless is important. Oftentimes in periods of great peril or upheaval, it is our artists who can bring meaning to the strife around us, distilling the confusion into one strong image or work that speaks to everyone in a universal language. American Carnage #3 forms part of a work of art that in time will enable future readers to look back in one attempt to understand the movements and moments, those of us living today tried to comprehend. Painful, punishing, but absolutely riveting, American Carnage may be the comic book of our times.

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About Author

Romantic. Raconteur. Kangaroo rustler. Sadly, Rob is none of these. Rob has been a follower of genre since at least the mid-1970s. Book collector, Doctor Who fan, semi-retired podcaster, comic book shop counter jockey, writer (once!) in Doctor Who Magazine and with pretensions to writing fantasy and horror, Rob is the sort of fellow you can happily embrace while wondering why you're doing it. More of his maudlin thoughts can be found at his ill-tended blog https://robertmammone.wordpress.com/

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