The American Way Limited Series Review
Written By: John Ridley
Penciled By: Georges Jeanty
Inked By: Karl Story and Ray Snyder
Content: The American Way is suitable for readers 15 and up. There are scenes of violence, death, one sick sexual reference, and really offensive racial terms.
Introduction:The year is 1961 and car company ad man, Wes Chatham, stands proudly watching as the campaign he has carefully crafted for a new car is unveiled. Unfortunately for Wes he loses his job because the premiere superhero team the CDC (Civil Defense Corp) destroys the building where the unveiling was taking place thereby tainting the car he had been working in the eyes of the public. Fortunately for Wes he loses his job just in time for a call from his old friend; Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy.
The Story:Kennedy has an opening for Wes in the FDAA (Federal Disaster Assistance Administration), which is the government agency in charge of “handling” the CDC. While trying to convince Wes to take the job, Kennedy lays in from of Wes a folder detailing one of the government’s greatest secrets: that the FDAA stages fights between heroes and villains who are little more than super-powered actors to help bolster the confidence of the American people.
Wes decides to accept the job just I time for the FDAA to be put into a tight spot when team member Old Glory, the embodiment of America ideals drops dead from a heart attack while fighting the Red Terror. Wes decides that a black superhero is what is needed to help race relations and decides to replace Old Glory with a new superhero The New American. Jason Fisher is run through gene therapy by the government and given invulnerability and super strength but the government builds in a back door to control him when they leave his pain receptors at the same level as that of a normal human.
None of the members of the CDC knew the identity of The New American and when his identity is exposed, the Southern superheroes refuse to work with Fisher and leave in disgust, actively speaking against the inclusion of a black superhero into their group. To divert the public’s attention away from the CDC’s internal struggles the FDAA unleash a homicidal super-villain known as Hellbent.
Hellbent kills everyone on board a bus in the South who were going to a civil rights rally with the lone being The New American’s brother, who has been tortured and paralyzed. The CDC has never fought in a battle that was not choreographed and when they go to deal with Hellbent they are quickly defeated with one member being decapitated by her own ax and another member having his hand chopped by the same ax.
The CDC members who stayed with the group gather themselves and attempt to save Jason Fisher and a big fight ensues. The government realizes that the heroes are out of control and they launch four nuclear missiles to kill them all. One of the employees at the FDAA reveals himself to be a follow of Hellbent and diverts 3 of the missiles to major cities. The heroes pull themselves together to stop all but a single missile headed towards where the heroes were fighting and Southern Cross is killed.
Review:These are the hardest types of books to review. When a book hits the mark dead-on it is easy to praise. When a book misses the target completely it is easy to rip apart. But how do you review a book that does so many things right but still manages to miss the bulls-eye by just an inch or two?
Writer John Ridley does a great job of setting up an interesting premise with potentially fascinating characters. The problem is that he tries to squeeze in too many ideas. There are three possible main ideas in this miniseries, the first is that of a government superhero team that are nothing but actors. The second is that of race relations and of a black superhero trying to fit in. The third is that of a normal man coming to grips with what his government has told him is a lie. Any one of these ideas would have been enough to carry this miniseries but since all are used none are allowed to even start reaching their full potential. There is just enough time for a setup before we have to race to the next plot point. Perhaps adding another 4 issues like Marvel Comic’s old maxi-series used to have would have allowed this story to breathe a little more.