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The American Way #1

Posted: Friday, March 3, 2006
By: Michael Bailey



"Book One: Ask Not."

Writer: John Ridley
Artists: Georges Jeanty (p), Karl Story (i), Randy Mayor (colors)

Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm


Plot: Pharos. Freya. Secret Agent. The East Coat Intellectual. The Wanderer. Amber Waves. Mighty Delta. Mr. Lucky. Ole Miss. Southern Cross. Old Glory. Together they are the Civil Defense Corps, the United States superhuman line of defense. After the CDC battles an invading alien force, a man named Wesley loses his job designing automobiles because the unveiling of his newest vehicle was associated with the attack. Salvation comes in the form of Bobby Kennedy, an old college friend of Wes', who offers him a position in the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, which oversees the CDC. Wes is shocked to learn the truth behind the CDC and has to deal with telling the world that one of the members is dead on the first day of his new job.

Commentary: There are times as a reader where you get a certain vibe off of an upcoming comic. It's a gut feeling that tells you that this book could be something special. There are no guarantees, of course. Sometimes a book looks great and then comes out and you realize that all of the anticipation was wasted because the final product doesn't measure up to your expectations. I had a really good feeling about American Way, but there was a certain level of trepidation that the book wasn't going to be as good as I thought it would be. Then I read this first issue.

My gut feeling was right. This book was awesome.

In all honesty, it was an easy sell. The comic features a group of heroes with a complicated back story that are based somewhat on the more popular characters published by DC and Marvel. I could try to list what character equals what character, but that would be kind of boring and pointless since it really doesn't matter. Given what was revealed about the group towards the middle of the issue, it's hard to look at them as your standard heroes since they are really agents of the government who sometimes participate in elaborately staged battles to give the American people a sense of hope. So the fact that Pharos is kind of like Superman is irrelevant because they have different methods and ways of using their powers towards the common good.

The book's setting was another aspect that drew me in. I love period pieces, especially those set between World War Two and the end of the 60s. All-Star Squadron, The Invaders, The Golden Age and DC: New Frontier are all personal favorites because of their mix of super-heroes and historical events. John Ridley writes the historical figures as real people and not the idealized versions that we may have of them. He also blends the real-life people with the fictional characters seamlessly, which makes it seem like this story could have actually happened if super powered individuals had appeared prior to World War Two.

The surprise came with the main character, Wesley. Ridley did a fantastic job of establishing Wesley and the world he lives in. The narration at the beginning of the issue gives a clear insight into what makes him tick. He has an honest grounding regarding his place in the world, but at the same time he still seems to have a sense of optimism. After he loses his job designing and selling automobiles to the American people, he is offered another position doing essentially the same thing. He doesn't see it that way. He looks at the truth behind the Civil Defense Corps as a giant lie to the American people, but at the same time his own words during the unveiling of the Icon indicate he has no problem putting a spin on something to give people a sense of hope. This makes for a complex character and one the reader can get behind, support and like.

Georges Jeanty's art was another aspect of the book that made it great. I've enjoyed his work for years, and his style was well suited to the story. He gave the battle between the alien invaders and the Civil Defense Corps the sense of awe and wonder that it needed and paced it out beautifully. From the initial appearance of the Corps (we're saved), to the introduction of the characters and what they can do (the heroes fight), to the heroes fall (oh man, we are so screwed) to the arrival of Old Glory (all is not lost) it was the quintessential fight scene. This made the fact that it was staged more dramatic because it drew the reader in and made them believe these people were the heroes. He also drew the historical figures in a way that stayed true to his style but gave enough detail to give it some level of accuracy.

In The End: So far so good. John Ridley has created a fantastic alternate reality with complex, believable characters where the heroes are not what they seem. Georges Jeanty, aided and abetted by Karl Story, delivered a great looking comic with wonderful character designs and terrific storytelling. I was extremely impressed with this first issue and have high hopes for the rest of the series.



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