Even with a strong grasp on its subject, 'The American Way' grapples with nuance

Even with a strong grasp on its subject, ‘The American Way’ grapples with nuance

Cover to 'The American Way: Those Above and Those Below' #1. Art by Georges Jeanty and Danny Miki/Vertigo/DC Comics

Cover to ‘The American Way: Those Above and Those Below’ #1. Art by Georges Jeanty and Danny Miki/Vertigo/DC Comics

By Arpad Okay. The American Way is the hard fall that comes when superheroes are tools. The organizations that put these heroes together decades ago — and went on to exploit them — have since disbanded. And yet the New American, Ole Miss, and Amber Waves are still doing what they think is right without giving it much thought.

Jason Fisher, lit up by shotgun blasts, is a ballistic charge himself. Instead of fighting redlining banks for an opportunity in the community or taking on slumlords, Fisher fights the ghetto by breaking its residents’ bones. Missy Deveraux could be a shovel, digging in for white supremacy hiding behind political rhetoric. Will she cherry pick the parts she likes? Amber Eaton, a wrench in the gears, is doped to the gills.

It’s a book containing wisdom, but it doesn’t come from the former superpowers. Each blind hero has a woke foil. Fisher’s brother, hands down the best part of the issue, asks Jason (and the reader), Whose justice are you serving? It’s the counselors who give the story its grand sincerity, who give the then-and-now parallels meaning. They aren’t pulling punches and they hit harder than the living weapons.

Interior page to 'The American Way: Those Above and Those Below' #1. Art by Georges Jeanty and Danny Miki/Vertigo/DC Comics

Interior page to ‘The American Way: Those Above and Those Below’ #1. Art by Georges Jeanty and Danny Miki/Vertigo/DC Comics

John Ridley knows what he’s doing, and the creative team stands beside him, matching the quality. Georges Jeanty and Danny Miki nail the fashion of the era from streets to gentry. Each character looks the part and the overall vision holds fast. Nick Filardi’s colors are vivid and magnificent. The action glows. Even the quiet moments, as when a flock of birds take wing above a somber conversation, feel utterly complete. It all comes together. Not dated. Timely.

Ridley asks deep questions, all worth your time and thought, but American Way takes a turn I don’t quite grasp. Here, the villains are robbed of nuance, contrasted in either black or white. “He don’t kill ‘cause he’s trying to clean up the ghetto. He kills ‘cause he likes killing.” The grey area in which the readers wrestle gets extinguished if the antagonists are simply nuts.

But I trust in the writing. The wheels that turn beneath the surface are propelling a story forward that’s critical for today’s world. American Way should pique the interest of any political science buff, armchair or academic. It can go anywhere from here, but the reader can count on walking away from it wiser than they were at the start of the journey.

Vertigo/DC Comics/$3.99

Written by John Ridley.

Pencils by Georges Jeanty.

Inks by Danny Miki.

Colors by Nick Filardi.

Letters by Travis Lanham.

7 out of 10

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