The start of a new story from Image Comics, Days of Hate #1 hits disturbingly close to home. Set in the United States during the year 2022, Days of Hate stars a pair of ex-lovers acting on opposite sides of war in a police state. The series is written by Ales Kot, drawn by Danijel Zezelj, colored by Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by Aditya Bidikar. Do they do a good job introducing the series’ premise and characters?
Days of Hate wastes no time in establishing just what sort of world its characters live in, and how similar it is to our own. The decision to set the story just four years in the future from now is a bold one, and this issue’s title (“America First”) and opening quotes (one of which comes from Steve Bannon) further sell its relevance. After the front matter, the issue opens with two people investigating the site of a domestic terror attack. Shattered glass windows and swastikas painted on the walls of the scene set a desolate and oppressive tone from the get-go, and the rest of the issue does a solid job further fleshing out the horrid political climate.
Days of Hate is a very “talky” comic, but that’s not a bad thing; conveying the ways in which people treat (and mistreat) each other is vital to any story tackling themes of bigotry and fascism. Particularly notable are the scenes in which one of the leads, Huian Xing, talks with the head of the Special National Police Unit for the Matters of Domestic Terrorism. Kot does an excellent job on said scenes’ dialogue, incorporating vital plot information without ever having the characters like they’re speaking solely for the reader’s benefit.
As well-written as this issue is, it owes much of its impact to the superb quality of its artwork. Zezelj delivers fantastic page compositions, with panel transitions that hone in on just the right images and movements. Each shot feels necessary to the narrative; there’s virtually no fat that could be skimmed here. Bellaire’s coloration elevates the already strong visuals to a place of sheer beauty, even when depicting the most gruesome of subject matter. Bidikar’s lettering is also fantastic, and overall, the issue has very few visual cons.
My main qualms with this issue concern the specific details of its storyline. We get a fantastic sense of the world’s tonal alignment, but not of its narrative history. I don’t need to immediately receive a ton of details about in-world tragedies, election outcomes, and other such events, but I wish there were just a few more. Asides from wanting a bit more narrative progression, my other con for the issue is the inconsistency of detail on characters’ faces and bodies. Most of the issue’s line-work feels perfected, but there’s a short scene toward the middle where the art feels much more rushed and less evocative as a result.
Overall, Days of Hate #1 is a strong opening issue. The creative team comes out swinging with a ballsy premise that is instantly (and eternally) relevant, and beautiful artwork makes it hard to look away, even though the social climate depicted is a hellhole. Nonetheless, I wish that we had gotten some more solid footing regarding who the main characters are and what specific events led them to this point. What we do get is very good, though, and I would recommend this issue to just about anyone. Provided that Days of Hate can retain this high quality level across future issues, this will be a series to watch out for.