American Carnage is an uncompromising look at racism and class divide in modern America. Written by Bryan Edward Hill with art from Leandro Fernandez, the book deals with the incendiary topics in a gripping crime narrative that wastes no time in tackling the race issue. It also does so in an in-your-face manner that makes it clear the series will not be pulling any punches.
Within the first few pages readers see an infant wrapped in a Nazi flag and a brutal crime scene that was obviously racially motivated. It’s a fascinating opening that immediately draws the reader in. The powerful scenes have a dual effect. It immediately instills a sense of worry in the reader. After all, American Carnage is already dealing with a sensitive subject which can easily scare readers off.
Thankfully, Hill never adds melodrama to his story and lets his strong writing speak for itself. The eye opening first pages are the draw that bring readers into the story of American Carnage. The remainder of the book is appropriately simplistic and frighteningly real. The characters and actions do not have to be over-the-top since they are a reflection of modern society. The comic is easy to read through even while the themes are tough to read about.
Hill accomplishes the great storytelling in American Carnage through the natural flow of the dialogue. In many crime dramas, police tend to deliver awe inspiring speeches while the villains make the most blood chilling comments. Hill does not go this route, choosing instead to have characters speak in a normal everyday manner. This serves to make each scene more powerful and every comment more impactful. It also engages the reader even more deeply into the story.
The setting in American Carnage is constantly foreboding. The opening panels are an interrogation interspersed with death and racism. The tone remains consistent throughout the book. Every conversation and meeting has a sinister intent while every character seems to have dark secret. The tone constantly keeps the reader on edge and is perfect for the book.
(Racism is the central theme of American Carnage; however, it will be interesting to see how the class division is dealt with. There have already been some subtle and not so subtle clues that this will be an important part of the series.)
Adding to the realism of the story is the art of Fernandez. The constant use of reds and blues emphasize American Carnage’s darker story while the use of shadows give the book a noir-esque look. Even scenes in the broad daylight are colored slightly darker. The art underlines the fact that American Carnage is about normal people in unfortunate circumstances.
American Carnage is a confrontational book that forces the readers to look at today’s America. The comic does not deal with new topics and instead promotes a discussion about the things we do not want to hear. American Carnage is another great entrant in the DC Vertigo line.