Written by B. Alex Thompson
Drawn by Federico Santagati
Published by Approbation Comics
I got this last week on impulse. The synopsis for this series was: In a story that’s “Romeo & Juliet” meets “American History X,” Hass is the story of the dramatic and tragic events that turns a young Black man into a Neo Nazi.
Well, I just had check that out. So here we go.
This is the story of Josh Jones, a young Black man who, when this story opens, has just arrived for his first day at college, somewhere in the South (the college name and location is unspecified). He immediately spots a cute White girl and becomes determined to date her. Josh’s pursuit of this girl then proceeds to take up the majority of the rest of this comics. It’s funny, but Josh acts exactly the way I frequently encourage young men his age not to act when I’m in the dating advice forums on Reddit. Like, the guy won’t take no for answer and simply won’t give up, no matter what. He sees her sitting at a table outside, but then she starts to leave before he can walk over to her, so he chases into the building to introduce himself. She’s friendly enough, but basically blows him off, so he actually follows her into her first class that morning, and sits next to her, just so he can keep talking to her, even though he’s not even supposed to be in that class. Later that night Josh goes to a local club to catch some hot new rock band, and he spots the girl there and make another move on her, ending up practically bribing her into going out with him. And it works!
Seriously, in real life she’d just be thinking he’s creepy. And I’d be like, dude, don’t get all hung up on any one girl so quickly. But this is fiction. And all throughout this we are getting a running narration of Josh’s thoughts, as he’s constantly working on how to win her over, reading her body language, watching her reactions, etc., and using that to determine what he’s going to say or do next. They end up spending the next few hours together, getting something to eat, then going out to ride some swings in a park, and discover that they have quite a few things in common. To writer B. Anthony Thompson’s credit, he really excels at this back and forth dialog. Josh and Maggie, that’s the girl’s name, “sound” like two real young people. And this is important in a comic like this, since it is primarily a drama.
So things go so well that after Josh walks her back to her house, she invites him in, and they have sex. Josh can’t believe his good fortune, everything is awesome. But then it all falls apart.
After sex, Maggie’s cousin Cole comes up, with 4 of his friends, and it turns out that they’re all violent racists. They take Josh out back and brutally beat the shit out of him, piss on him, and put a gun to his head, threatening to kill him. I swear, even in a comic-book, these pages were hard to get through. Again, through Josh’s narration we can feel all of the pain, anger, fear and humiliation that he’s feeling. And, again, much credit to Thompson for his writing skill. It now makes sense why he spent so much of the issue focusing on Josh’s pursuit of Maggie and them getting to know each other. He was making sure that Josh was a “real person” that we, the audience, could understand and relate to, so that by the time he’s in this position we’re now emotionally invested in him. This makes the danger he’s in feel even more intense, because we care what happens to him.
I won’t say any more to spoil this ending. I’ll just say that they don’t kill him, but what they do do to him might be even worse. You’ll need to read this for yourself to see what I mean.
And I definitely recommend that you read this. Like I said, some of it wasn’t easy for me, but subjects like this aren’t always easy, and we shouldn’t back away from them just because they’re a little uncomfortable sometimes.
And much praise to artist Federico Santagati, who does a stellar job with the visuals.
HASS is not typical comic-book, and that’s a good thing. This is a compelling and stark look at the worst parts of America. I most highly recommend this.