There has been a subtle shift in tone over the course of American Carnage. It’s hardly noticeable and has made no difference on the story at all; however, anyone who has been paying close attention can see it. What started as a gritty commentary on American society with heavy noir elements has started to address things with a less delicate touch. Bryan Hill’s and Leandro Fernandez’s book still has the in-your-face attitude, but it also has become more bombastic as events are ironically more secretive. But how has this affected the series?
The last issue ended with a major bombshell. For the second time, Rick has been blindsided and is lucky to come out alive. The first instance, the follow up, was interesting and frightening. How easy was it for Wynn Morgan to kill Rick? This time was a little different in that the reveal was much more terrifying. The follow up has been a little confusing. It’s almost as if life has just moved on.
American Carnage #7 sees Jennifer Morgan holding the knowledge of Rick’s affiliation over his head. She wants him to help out a lifelong friend of her’s in need. This makes complete sense — she knows something about Rick and is using it to her utmost advantage. But why is Rick so concerned over the relationship status between the two? She was obviously luring him in. And why does it seem like Jennifer hasn’t told her father about Rick? The last issue made it seem like everyone knew Rick’s secret. American Carnage has been filled with secrecy, but this issue seems more like missteps from Hill.
The issue also has more of a “blockbuster” feel to it than any previous one. In movie terms, issue #7 is Lethal Weapon while the rest of the series has been Mississippi Burning. Where the first six issues were packed with both action and introspection, this one is much more action oriented. This is seen most in the closing page where Rick meets up with an old acquaintance.
This doesn’t mean the DC Vertigo series has taken a turn for the worse — it’s just a little less nuanced than before. Readers are given further insight into Jennifer, who throughout the series has been portrayed as a femme fatale, loving mother, confidant, and untrustworthy. Issue #7 deftly explains why she is such a complicated character. It’s definitely a trope, but Hill has written Jennifer in such a way that readers can both be scared of her while also worrying for her. (She also makes a very chilling comment to Rick.)
This is definitely Jennifer’s issue. Rick plays a big part, but his moments are more about furthering Jennifer’s character. The biggest revelation is in regards to her relationship with her father. Not only does it shed light on previous actions in American Carnage, it also lays the groundwork for what may happen in the future. Hill has consistently done a great job of creating tension in his story, and adds another layer here.
The introduction of Agent Coleman is also interesting on so many levels. American Carnage constantly keeps the reader on edge. There have been attacks, revelations, and back stabbings during the series. It is impossible to not look askance at every character. Coleman is so obviously out to make things difficult for Shelia that the reader is almost forced to believe the agent from Chicago is completely on the up and up. It’s a nice scene that adds more intrigue to the story.
Fernandez does his usual great job and it’s highlighted during this scene. Adding to the tension is the great use of colors and shadows. Coleman is barely lit, making it harder to make out his features. What readers can see makes him even less trustworthy. The panel placement here is excellent and the entire book in general has a very cinematic quality to it. Few artists capture mood as well as Fernandez.
American Carnage #7 is a deeper character study of Jennifer Morgan. Racial politics are still an important part of the story, but take a backseat to arguably the most complicated person in the entire series. The book still has a high level of intrigue and there is not one person in the series who can be trusted. The addition of new characters and some added insight into Jennifer have added more layers to an already engaging series.