[18 April 2006]
America loves conspiracies. Whether it is about who killed our leaders, the nasty truth about our natural disasters, or who ends up winning American Idol, we always try to construct the story behind the story. We try to explain the unexplainable.
So then it seems only fitting that a conspiracy-themed story would be titled The American Way. The story takes place in 1961, in the midst of the Cold War. One of the biggest assets our side has is the Civil Defense Corps, a group of super powered individuals united to protect our shores. The CDC has been keeping America safe from Nazis, space aliens, and commies for decades. But there is a secret about the CDC that the rest of America doesn’t know.
What’s the secret? That it’s all a sham. The Civil Defense Corps, and the villains they fight, are all actors in the employ of the Federal Government. Sure, they have super powers, but these powers have either been augmented through the government’s genetic experimentation or are created by the government’s technology.
So the team is basically another weapon of the Cold War, an answer to the Russians’ Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin. They are a symbol of hope that also serves to take America’s mind off of being second in the space race or the embarrassment that was the Bay of Pigs.
This is a good concept for the series. Even though it is set in the past, the idea of our government lying to us is as timely as today’s headlines. I doubt this fact was lost on the comic’s creators.
The American Way#1 is an issue long exposition for the series. It explains the concept and introduces us to our main character, a failed automobile marketing executive named Wesley who was brought in by his old college friend Bobby Kennedy to help market the team to the public. Wesley is introduced briefly at the beginning of the book and his presence is felt in the captions throughout, but we really don’t get to know him well until the end of the book.
Normally, having your main character not be the focus of the issue and barely touching on the main plot of the series would lead to an awful book. Not so much with The American Way. The issue serves to set up the world these characters live in and the problems they must face. As it is, the book stands as a good story on its own. If the ending was changed so that it didn’t end in a cliffhanger, you would still be left with a fairly entertaining one shot.
However, the one flaw of the issue is that, judging by the solicitation copy for future books, it doesn’t tell us much about the overall plot of the series. It establishes one of the themes of the book, how the government misleads its citizens, quite well. It has a good story but since it was the first issue of a series, more should have been revealed to get readers interested in the upcoming months.
However, the broad strokes the issue paints the series in are enough to grab this reviewer’s interest. It sets up the controversy in a plausible fashion and interweaves the fictional characters in with the history of that time period seamlessly. It is good enough that I will continue with the series in the hopes that the storyline will be as good as this first issue.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/american-way-1/