Sunday, September 22, 2013


I scored a copy of the trade paperback collection of THE AMERICAN WAY in a recent trade with another comic book collector. I sat down and read it yesterday afternoon and I was very impressed.

THE AMERICAN WAY is an eight-issue mini-series published by DC Comics under the Wildstorm imprint in 2006. The story is by John Ridley and the art by Georges Jeanty.

The year is 1961. Wes Catham is an ad-man for an automobile company. When he loses his job shilling cars, he's contacted by United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy to come to work for the government. Instead of selling cars, he's selling super-heroes. The Civil Defense Corps to be exact, a team of super-powered men and women who are not all that they appear to be.

Turns out the CDC is the equivalent of professional wrestling. The fights and the villains are fake and the outcome of their battles is always the pre-determined, scripted same thing. The good guys always win.

Some of the members of the CDC do have real super powers, the results of genetic manipulation by the government to induce superior abilities. A couple of them are just average joes with lots of gimmicks.

But when a member of the team dies unexpectedly during a scripted battle, Wes has to spin the death and find a suitable replacement hero. He does so in the person of the New American, a new, genetically enhanced hero who also happens to be the first black superhero in a still segregated nation.

There's more to this compelling series, much more. There's superhero thrills and action, political intrigue, a high body count, racial tension, a surprise villain and some unexpected twists and turns. The story is well told by Ridley with three-dimensional characters who all have their various motivations for doing what they do. Wes, the narrator and more-or-less hero of the book struggles mightily to provide hope and faith to a nation desperately in need of both commodities but fears he's lost his soul in the process. The art by Georges Jeanty is good and his story-telling abilities are first rate.

THE AMERICAN WAY is one of many post-modern deconstructions of the super-hero trope. It puts comic book heroes into a real world, historically accurate setting. It's dark, grim and gritty in several places but ultimately hopeful and optimistic. The world is a vastly different place at the end of this graphic novel than it was at the beginning. And that's a good thing.

THE AMERICAN WAY is recommended and well worth your time and effort to track down a copy and check it out.

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