American Carnage #1 (Vertigo Comics)
Comics are able to hold a mirror up to our world like no other medium, and no comic holds up a mirror quite like American Carnage, the new series from Vertigo. Written by Bryan Hill and drawn by Leandro Fernandez, American Carnage details a disgraced FBI agent’s attempt to infiltrate a white supremacist group, but what how far can he go without losing his soul?
Years ago, Richard King made a grave mistake, and accidentally killed an innocent teenager. Retired from the FBI, he’s awash in booze, drugs, and other shady business to keep his mind at ease. But when his former mentor Agent Curry comes to him to help the agency infiltrate a white supremacist group that’s believed to be behind the murder of a fellow agent, Richard quickly realizes that he may not be as ready to go back into the agency as he thinks.
Bryan Hill’s previous superhero scripts weren’t afraid to get political, but with American Carnage he hits a whole other level. While I’m sure the subject matter of this series will make some uncomfortable, it really can’t be done without it. Hill’s decision to have King be of mixed race comes into play here, as King is both of African American and Caucasian descent, making him the perfect agent to infiltrate the group. But Hill does a great job of showing King’s reluctance to take part in this mission, and setting the stakes for the series as a whole. There’s a heavy sense of uneasiness to this opening issue, and if the tension is this intense in the first issue, I can’t imagine what it’ll be like in the future.
Leandro Fernandez made a big splash with The Old Guard, and while American Carnage isn’t as action packed as that series, he does a great job of building the mood here with his art. Using a lot of shadows and heavy inks, Fernandez’ art is perfectly suited for this type of story, and reminds me a lot of RM Guera’s artwork on Scalped, another Vertigo series that seems to be a major influence on this one.
If you’re looking for a new crime series, and can handle some challenging themes, American Carnage is for you. All signs point to this being something as special as Criminal and Scalped, and could also have some pretty poignant things to say about our current political climate. Check it out.