Current Reviews


American Dream #2

Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2008
By: Ray Tate

Todd DeFalco
Todd Nauck, Scott Koblish (i), Avalon's Rob Ro (c)
Marvel Comics
"The Choice and the Challenge"

After surviving the car crash that killed her parents, young Shannon Carter was confined to a wheelchair. Her aunt, Peggy Carter, gave her Sharon Carter's diaries. In the words of Sharon Carter, Shannon learned about her deceased aunt's adventures with Captain America. Shannon found inspiration in these deeds. From Sharon and Cap, she learned not to give up and not to give in. Shannon followed physical therapy. She combated the trauma to her nerves. She learned to walk again.

Any book that has a female character defying the wheelchair automatically gets five bullets. It's that simple. The creative team does, however, offer the reader more reasons why American Dream is worth your time and coin.

The lead character is far more engaging a legacy than the formerly dead artist known as Bucky Barnes. She furthermore didn't need the assassination of Cap to motivate her. Her origin isn't based upon revenge or on a sense of blind duty. Rather, Shannon's choice to become the American Dream is founded in gratitude.

American Dream symbolizes the amalgamation of Sharon Carter and Cap, and she does so without being actually of their union. Though she carries traits she shares with Sharon in her genes, she embodies their spirit of both crimefighters. DeFalco also shows that she deserves to be considered the truer legacy through her effectiveness in combat as well as her willingness to protect the innocent.

There are three threads that DeFalco begins to tie together in American Dream. One, a girl named Sophina has asked the American Dream to search for her missing fiancee, an illegal immigrant. Two, feral crystalline creatures seem to be popping up out of the woodwork. Three, the Red Queen and Ion Man, two of the Revengers, monitor American Dream's movements to better work out a plan to get even with her.

Subplots involve American Dream seeking out a civilian life so that she may pursue a not-even budding relationship with Kevin Masterson also known as Thunderstrike who bears the legacy of Thor. It's here and in the physical damage that American Dream sustains, we first see her icing a sore shoulder, where DeFalco shows that Shannon is far from an infallible superhuman, but he does so in ways that do not go over the top.

Shannon logically cannot hate herself as so many other heroes seem to do these days. She also cannot hate her costumed life. Her origin negates both lazy writer tricks if the man or woman behind the keyboard can see it. DeFalco sees it. So he suggests that her life isn't perfect. She would like a civilian life. She would like to see what it's all about. At the same time, being American Dream is the one thing that makes sense to Shannon. Shannon wants to put on a costume. She wants to fight the bad guys. She wants to lead the Avengers. She's pro-hero and good at it.

Shannon does more than carry the Shield literally and figuratively for Cap by letting freedom ring on plug-ugly chins. She does so by questioning her government as well as standing up for the "downtrodden and oppressed." NSA agent--er...NSF agent--Maria Hill demands that the American Dream end her investigation into the appearance and disappearance of the crystal creatures. She acquiesces much to the anger of her team-mates, but she's far more interested in disobeying the letter of the law to track down an illegal who may have bitten off more than he can chew. She became involved with this case because American Dream has become a figure of inspiration to Sophina. It's simply stunning to see a hero that's believably inspirational in a comic book put out by one of the Big Two. A hero for whom you can cheer. That's because comic books from DC and Marvel have become not just dark but dank.

Heroes have become corrupted when they should be avatars that remind readers of the human potential for good. Decompressive storytelling, emphasis on telling, leading to Big Stupid Events is also to blame because a hero cannot gain a quick satisfying victory. He or she must fight through a morass of often unrelated obstacles or simply lose their power or brain cells to delay what used to be the inevitable. If you're looking for a true hero, here she stands. The American Dream.

Todd Nauck, Scott Koblish and Rob Ro give the Dream the visual chops to be resonant. Nauck displays Dream in gymnastic gyrations that would have made Captain America proud. She doesn't need fourteen panels to take out armed gunmen. Shannon flips, somersaults and tosses her shield in a mere six to take out a cadre. The reduction of panels creates a stronger sense of Shannon's speed, and she doesn't even have super soldier formula swimming around in her bloodstream. Koblish's sharp inks help delineate space and scale. His solid black lines help define the Dream's physique and her animated action. Rob Ro's patriotic colors crystallize the image of a traditionally star-spangled garb that contrasts the drab dark colors of the mercenaries in the last act. Together they make the American Dream an attractive ideal.

By putting an end to decompressionist pap, the creative team actually illustrates American Dream like a comic book of old but losing none of the sophistication that many aim for but frequently miss. We learn American Dream's origin. We see her sort out bad guys and her own needs. At the same time, the book addresses dicey issues like illegal immigration and the abuse of power in the government. While they show the reality of trauma, they do not let reality get in the way of rational storycrafting within the context of a super-hero world. In short, American Dream is a perfect comic book.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!