In 1961, the American government created a ersatz super-hero team called the American Way as a propaganda tool against the communists. In the midst of a faked-up battle, one of the American Way dies of a heart attack while fighting a fake representative of Chinese Communism. To replace the dead team member, the team’s new administrator chooses a black man, the first one to be part of the team. The plan up front is to hide the man’s opinion from the American people, but the black man may have opinions of his own…
It’s a provocative theme for a comic book, and it is intriguing. The missing link here to make the comic really special, though, is atmosphere. Perhaps it’s Jeanty’s clean art style, or perhaps it’s Ridley’s well-ironed script, but this story lacks a real feel for taking place in the ’60s. There are a few scenes that implicitly call out the era – for example, many people smoke in the comic – but there are just as many scenes that feel timeless. The scene that takes place at a football stadium, for instance, doesn’t feel like it’s from a bygone era, nor do the scenes that take place as government agents perform gene manipulation on the new hero. In fact, the whole idea of gene manipulation feels pretty anachronistic for the 1960s.
There is some nice drama in this comic, though. The story of Jason Fisher, Howard University grad drummed out of the Army for beating up a white man, who chooses to become a hero, is interesting. I like the way that Fisher seems to represent changing times, representing the changing state of black men in America in that era.
The first issue of American Way had deeper and more complex themes flowing through it, and even a cameo from Bobby Kennedy, so maybe this second issue is just a breather before we get into the more complex world that the comic implies. When Jason Fisher puts on his costume, we’re sure to get some of that. But this issue was a bit disappointing.