American Carnage is a revelation. Bryan Edward Hill, a rising star at DC who won praise for his work on The Wild Storm: Michael Crayand Detective Comicshas a straight up throwback Vertigo book here with art partner Leandro Fernandez.
In my mind, there are two main periods of Vertigo comics. There’s launch era Vertigo – British Invasion comics like Sandman, Invisibles, or Hellblazer – the weird urban fantasy from the British titans of comics like Gaiman, Ennis, Morrison, or Delano (who should be a titan, btw). And then there’s mid-period Vertigo, when they moved away from the Swamp Things of the world and onto immersive crime slice of life stuff like 100 Bullets and Scalped. In many ways, American Carnage feels so much like 100 Bulletsthat I think Hill and Fernandez’s comic gets some bonus nostalgia points on top of being a terrific comic.
American Carnage is really easy to disappear into. It would be easy to describe the setting of the book as grimy and depressing and shitty, but the reality is it’s basically the America of 2019 dropped on the page (so…grimy, depressing, and shitty). Richard Wright is a mixed race ex-FBI agent going undercover to infiltrate a white supremacist organization run by a wealthy TV personality, and that’s basically that.
Everyone in the book who we’ve spent time with is a fully drawn character. Wright is full of guilt (for shooting a kid, which got him drummed out of the Bureau); Jenny Morgan, the daughter of the wealthy white supremacist who may be the real mover in the organization and is an entire person; even one of the skinheads, the one whose ass Wright kicks to show off to the gang, gets a full personality out of Hill and Fernandez.
Fernandez’s art is stellar. The art feels a lot like Eduardo Risso’s on the surface, but there are some subtle differences that make it stand apart: the art in American Carnage is less blocky, which I think allows for a little more subtlety in expressions and body language. Same for the angles – Risso tends towards a bit more severity in his “camera” angles that doesn’t happen here, but that works because American Carnage is less fantastical than 100 Bullets. And there’s also Dean White coloring American Carnage. White is one of the absurdly talented colorists working in the business today. His colors are slightly less flat than Patricia Mulvihill’s were, but it feels like he’s working in a similar pallette, so you get that familiar vibe from American Carnage without it being an open ripoff.
We’ve got an exclusive first look at issue 4, which picks up in the aftermath of the cross burning on Jenny Morgan’s lawn from the end of #3. Here’s what DC has to say about the book.
AMERICAN CARNAGE #4 written by BRYAN HILLart by LEANDRO FERNANDEZcover by BEN OLIVERWynn Morgan isn’t just a wealthy Los Angeles industrialist, he’s the unofficial king of a vast white nationalist movement and the prime suspect in the murder of an FBI agent. But a dead fed may prove to be the least of Morgan’s problems when dissension in the ranks signals what could be the start of a secret civil war, with white-passing undercover agent Richard Wright caught right in the middle.
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American Carnage #4 hits on Feb. 20.