By Mickey Rivera. No amount of idealism will change the fact that there is such a thing as irreconcilable differences, and that applies at both the national and interpersonal level. For the United States, and to an extent the Western world at large, the past two years have absolutely mutilated the notion that society has matured beyond the inclination for tribalism and bigotry. In short, the bad guys are winning again, and those inclined to resist them face an uphill battle against adversaries that provide no easy or viable path towards a middle ground.
Days of Hate, one of the latest efforts by Czech-American writer Aleš Kot, takes our contemporary political power dynamic to its logical, dystopian extreme. A civil war breaks out not long after the 2016 elections, and the racist, xenophobic, anti-queer tendencies inherent to “alt-right” conservatism expand into a full-on totalitarian regime, complete with labor camps and state-sanctioned violence against dissidents and undesirables.
This inaugural issue focuses on the parallel stories of Amanda and Huian, a divorced couple who’s tragic falling out was an indirect result of the recent civil war. Amanda is radicalized by the rampant injustice and oppression she’s witnessed, and becomes an operative for an as-yet unknown freedom fighting terrorist organization. Huian had hopes to raise a family with Amanda, but this hope is fatally crushed by Amanda’s anger. The book follows Amanda as she attacks an Alt-right gathering, while cutting to scenes of Huian being approached by government spooks for intel on her ex-wife’s whereabouts.
Making the relationship between Amanda and Huian the crux of this issue is a brilliant way to bring readers into such a politically charged story. Huian’s anger towards her ex-wife is the result of a love that was deeply betrayed, and is even more sympathetic than Amanda’s anger towards the alt-right regime. It’s the consequences of this shattered interpersonal relationship, rather than just the machinations of the government, that drive the story forward. While the supporting characters end up feeling like fodder for the story of Huian and Amanda, this might change later. This issue leaves much to learn about the world they live in.
Good writing aside, it may be the visuals that do the most to bring us in. Danijel Žeželj, an artist who Kot has been itching to collaborate with since 2010, more or less beats us into rapt submission with the heaviest brushstrokes and jagged lines. Each page is caged, bound, and fractured, with grit creeping in at the edges of everything. There are certain wordless sequences that positively glow with intensity as Žeželj’s ink synergizes with Jordie Bellaire’s colors and Kot’s cinematic pacing.
This twelve-issue limited series has the potential to tackle subjects that desperately need to be explored in contemporary comics, and I’m not just talking about the current United States Goblin-in-Chief. He’s just the symptom of a casual millennial fascism polluting the American headspace. As people much smarter than me have pointed out, speculative fiction allows audiences to read the present as though it were history. In other words, it can make it easier to see above the smog. A properly calibrated scenario such as the one Kot has engineered could allow readers to look indirectly at their present situation as observers, instead of as frustrated victims of a world that is turning against them. With the distance afforded by this speculative future, the ideologies that surround us becomes just another plot device to dissect.
In other words: Days of Hate is good for comics, and good for America.
Written by Aleš Kot.
Drawn by Danijel Žeželj.
Colored by Jordie Bellaire.
Lettered by Aditya Bidikar.
Design by Tom Muller.
9 out of 10
Enjoy this seven-page preview of ‘Days of Hate’, courtesy of Image Comics!