American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1


Written by John Ridley
Penciled by Georges Jeanty
Inked by Danny Miki
Colored by Nick Filardi
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo Comics

PREVIOUSLY: The American Way by John Ridley & Georges Jeanty

Well, this turned out to be a complete surprise to me, as I had no idea that this was planned or in the making. Just scrolling through this weeks new releases on Comixology and there this was, the first issue to a follow-up of John Ridley and Georges Jeanty’s 2006 miniseries. Since I enjoyed the first series, I naturally decided to check this one out.

Much like real-life, this series has progressed over a decade, as the stories opens in 1972. The Civil Defense Corp and the Southern Defense Corp. have long since been disbanded and disgraced, as the government’s role in their creation was exposed. And this issue deals with three of the surviving members from the previous teams, showing where they are now. Ole Miss retired, moved back to Mississippi, and married a local politician named Hollis, who ran for and became governor. But his term is about to be up, and due to term limits he can’t run again, so he and his campaign manager are trying to convince her to run for Governor in Hollis’ place, basically as a “puppet candidate” (similar to how Lurleen Wallace ran for Governor of Alabama in George Wallace’s place, in 1967). With her past as a superhero, which is widely admired in the South, they argue that Missy (her real name) would be a shoe-in, but she is reluctant to run or draw any attention to her past.

Amber Waves has now become an outright domestic terrorist, joining up with a radical left-wing group, where she uses her powers to set off small explosions in various Federal buildings (while being careful not to actually hurt anyone). But it’s also made clear that she has a developing drug problem, which is adversely affecting her powers. Her group is approached by Nikki, a young woman who happens to be the daughter of the man whom the government had hired to play the Communist Chinese Supervillain Red Terror, who was “fighting” the Civil Defense Corps. when the superhero Old Glory died of a heart attack. The man, Johnny Lau, ended up killing himself out of fear that the government would kill him to keep their secrets. Now Nikki wants revenge, and Amber and her group vow to help her.

And the other character is the New American himself, Jason. He’s operating as superhero on his own, trying to clean up the streets of Baltimore. As this story begins, Jason is trying to capture a militant Black leader named Willie, who is going around killing drug dealers and gang members, ostensibly to get their guns and drugs off the streets. The problem is that may of the local Black community view Willie as a hero, because despite his violent ways, he’s actually doing something about the crime in the streets, while Jason is siding with the White police force. So he’s viewed as a sell-out and Uncle Tom. Even Jason’s own brother questions his motives, and points out that Jason’s hands aren’t exactly free of blood either (as readers of the original miniseries know).

So far, Jason’s story is the most compelling to me. Seeing that internal moral conflict that he deals with is interesting. I’m also curious as to where Amber’s story goes. At the moment, it’s Missy’s story that will need to be fleshed out more, before I can make a final judgment on it. But this is a good first issue, setting up this new series. I guess the biggest “flaw” I’d point out regarding the writing is that I think it’s pretty heavily geared towards readers of the original miniseries, I don’t think a newbie can just jump right into this without reading that first. Also, in the Missy scenes, there’s the use of the word “progressives” to describe liberals, but I don’t think that term was widely used until the modern era, so it felt out of place.

Art-wise, I have zero complaints. I enjoyed Georges Jeanty’s pencils the first time around, and do so again. With the aid of inker and colorists Danny Miki and Nik Filardi, this book looks very nice.

So, for all fans of the first series, come on back!

American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1

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