Review: The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1

It’s been a decade since the Civil Defense Corps was exposed as a fraud created by the U.S. Government for propaganda purposes. While most of the heroes who survived the catastrophe have retired or disappeared, the New American still carries on, trying to keep communities safe amid the social turmoil of the 1970s. But with the nation split in two over civil rights and the changing political landscape, this isn’t easy. Some of the American’s former colleagues are on opposite sides of the law: Amber Waves joined a group of domestic terrorists, while Missy, a.k.a. Ole Miss, has thrown her hat into the political ring. As the ground shifts beneath his feet and new threats arise, which side will the American choose?

Unfortunately for me, I never read the original American Way series (though will be rectifying that soon). Even without that under my belt The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1 is a perfect introduction to the world dreamed up by writer John Ridley and artist Georges Jeanty.

Ridley is one of my favorite creators delivering thought provoking entertainment and some of the most layered and relevant television in recent years with American Crime. So, since the announcement of this series I’ve been awaiting its release to see what Ridley might deliver and much like that groundbreaking television work, the first issue lays the groundwork for what feels like what will be a comic series that will challenge the reader to not just be entertained but also think.

The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1 moves the original story forward in history, factoring in how real-life events might be affected by the presence of superheroes, and how those events change the heroes in turn. Taking place in 1972 the time in American history is just as important as the characters. History is a character here and understanding where the United States was at the time helps. Weaving entertainment with real history and socio-political issues is something that Ridley excels at and this first issue is no exception.

As I said, I never read the original series, but this first issue is a perfect primer to catch up and learn about this world that I want to see more of. The characters are quickly and interestingly introduced enough that you can figure out personalities, backgrounds, and issues, and even the major events of the previous volume are touched upon enough that you feel like you have enough to work with. Those that have read the previous volume will of course have more to work with than newcomers but being new to this world doesn’t put you at a disadvantage.

Artist Georges Jeanty along with inker Danny Miki and colorist Nick Filardi delivers the art that matches Ridley’s fantsastic story. The trio are able to deliver a world where superheroes fit in, our world, just with people with powers. There’s a grittiness to it all and the use of coloring helps set the mood and action for each scene. Letterer Travis Lanham also helps set the mood with slight changes to the lettering that helps bring out the personality of each character.

An amazing beginning that has me excited to see what Ridley will deliver in the subsequent issues and a set up that feels like we’ll get the depth he’s delivered elsewhere in comic form. Absolutely amazing on every level and it matches my anticipation in every way.

Story: John Ridley Art: Georges Jeanty
Ink: Danny Miki Color: Nick Filardi Letters: Travis Lanham

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review