American Carnage #8 – Bryan Hill, Writer; Leandro Fernandez, Artist; Dean White, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Doing Good/Bad For the Right/Wrong Reasons
Ray: The most impressive thing about American Carnage, Bryan Hill and Leandro Fernandez’ modern race-based noir, as it enters its penultimate issue is the way it can seesaw from ultra-violence to charged dialogue – and make the latter feel just as tense as the former. American Carnage #8 picks up with one of the bloodiest segments of the series, as undercover FBI agent Richard Wright is forced to team up with the twisted Obama-masked hitman to ensure a racist drug addict gets away from the Aryan Nations alive. The cowardly, quivering addict being rescued turns cruel and racist as soon as he’s away from his tormentors, of course, spewing hate at Sheila as Richard turns him over. Hill’s frequent use of a certain word in this issue is definitely going to raise some eyebrows, but this book’s unflinching look at the ugly face of racism – as well as its friendlier, more polite and seductive face – is what makes this story so strong.
And speaking of that friendlier face, the meat of this issue is in Richard’s increasingly twisted, codependent relationship with Jennifer Morgan, the daughter of the Nazi leader he’s undercover to destroy. Hill has kept us guessing through this series about Jennifer’s true agenda. At some points, she’s admitting to her daughter that Wynn is a monster, at other points she’s conspiring with killers to get threats out of her way. The highlight of the issue is a brilliantly gross dialogue between Richard and Jennifer when she shows up at his apartment uninvited, asking him pointed questions about race. Hill has made us invested in her character, at least enough to hold out some hope that she might make the right call. So watching her most toxic views laid bare is a stark reminder of what this series is all about – very flawed people working to take down monsters. With an officious FBI agent closing in on the operation and Jennifer crossing a line in the cliffhanger, we’re in for one hell of a finish.
Corrina: How evil is Jennifer? How good is Richard? We know Richard’s inner intentions are honorable and far superior to Jennifer’s racist thoughts and actions. But, then Richard helps massacre people, racists though they are. And Jennifer is perhaps a good mother and has been manipulated/abused all her life by her father. She’s not sympathetic but there are times when she’s understandable. But then she goes and orders a murder and….
As for rest of the FBI? Sheila? They all have gray reasons for wanting to take down Jennifer’s father. Hill and Fernandez never, ever let the racists off the hook in their story but, yet, at the same time, never let any of Richard’s decisions seem good over evil. Jennifer and her father are evil. Yet Richard traffics in evil to stop them. The story is clearly on Richard’s side, but he’s drowning in his own choices.
I often wonder how much of Richard’s sometimes confusion concerning Jennifer is a symbol for how those who are not-white see those who white, and how much Jennifer stands in for toxic white feminism.
Like any brilliant noir tale, there are no easy answers. This is not a comforting story. It’s not meant to be.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.