American Carnage #4 – Bryan Hill, Writer; Leandro Fernandez, Artist; Dean White, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Twisty and Brilliant
Ray: Bryan Hill and Leandro Fernandez continue to turn out the best straight crime thriller out of the Vertigo stable since the heyday of 100 Bullets. While the last issue had a lot more action and violence, American Carnage #4 tightens the screws on its characters in other ways. Last issue ended with Jennifer Morgan and Richard Wright finding a burning cross on the lawn, and this issue kicks off with the police investigating. While Jennifer talks to a Trump-supporting black police officer (showing Hill’s interest in exploring bigotry and radical politics in all corners), Richard is left alone with Jennifer’s daughter Amy. His knowledge of ASL allows him to communicate with her, and he comforts the scared girl with a sweet but haunting tale of a little girl in the woods, running from the monsters and fighting them off with the power of fearlessness. Richard’s bond with Amy is another wrinkle in his plan, giving him a genuine emotional tie to his targets.
As Richard tries to get closer to Jennifer and find out about her father’s plans, his bond with Amy causes a rift and ends with Jennifer kicking him out of the car. He starts to doubt his mission and even makes plans to back out with his handler. But the Morgan clan’s plans are escalating and Ryan Morgan meets with his associate Sheldon to try to rein in the radical elements. This violent redneck is designed to represent the crude, overt nature of racism as opposed to the more genteel nature of the Morgans. Tension is rising high, and it reaches an apex when Richard is confronted in his apartment by the mysterious Obama-masked assassin who framed him last issue. The issue shifts seamlessly from political intrigue to violent horror in pages, and these are some of the best characters I’ve read in a long time. Hill’s writing has elements of Ed Brubaker’s work but with a more diverse eye. It’s easily the class of the new Vertigo wave.
Corrina: This creative team sure knows how to write cliffhangers, from the earlier one with Richard being ordered to murder a man to this one that seemingly ends in his own murder.
I want the next issue, and I want it now!
This is that kind of story, where I’m pulled into every emotion, fascinated by every character, and seeing no clear way out for any of them. One of the best parts is that none of the characters do stupid things in order to service the plot. Instead, every action taken seems organic, driven by a character’s motivation, and thus causes other dominoes to fall.
The art team has been a perfect choice for this noir story, where the violence is visceral but pulls back from being too much or over-the-top, as can happen in crime stories.
I have to see how this ends. I’m kinda afraid to see how this ends. Poor Richard. And poor Amy.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.