How would our society treat the truly “different?” If young men and women suddenly displayed abilities and changes unlike anything in recorded history, what would happen to concepts like all men are created equal?
Writer Jonathan Ross has spent his career as a newsman, asking hard questions of the powers around the world. In America’s Got Powers, he uses the fantastical device of a sudden appearance of super-humans to call into question some of the very real and very controversial decisions made by the United States over the last several years.
This is a pick-up the pieces issue. In the first installment, Ross and Hitch gave us the shock of the event that created the powers, and introduced us to a frightening world where these people are used in the worst sort of bloodsport. This month, we get to see how the shocking events at the end of the first issue have begun to reshape the board, so to speak, and throw a lot of previous assumptions into question.
The story opens with a sobering look at the cost associated with a nation’s struggle for freedom and equality. As this issue hit the Wednesday following Memorial Day in the United States, the fact that it began with a scene set at the San Francisco National Cemetery was particularly poignant.
The men and women interred there gave their lives in defense of the belief that everyone, no matter their race, religion, color, or creed, is possessed of certain inalienable rights.
That is, unless they have superpowers. Then all bets are off.
The script moves liberally between different periods and locations, showcasing some of the development of the characters who feature on the show, as well as beginning to build an interesting supporting cast behind Tommy Watts. There are obvious-but-still-disturbing parallels drawn between the treatment of the powered and the mistreatment of certain minorities throughout history. The enforced wearing and display of a star to mark them for what they are when among their non-powered classmates is a disturbing reminder that humanity has not always performed well with respect to the persecution of others who are perceived as different.
Another interesting concept that Ross toys with in this month’s issue is the idea of power as a sort of stand-in for drugs or alcohol. We witness a group of characters in a scene that is highly reminiscent of an AA meeting. This is something that has been played with elsewhere in comics, but I will be interested to see if Ross chooses to continue down this path as Tommy’s abilities become more a part of his life.
As with the previous issue, the real thrust is hinted at in the news clippings that feature at the front of the book. In this case, Ross is taking a masked potshot at the idea of indefinite detention. There are obvious parallels between what the United States government is doing to the powered community in this series and what continues to happen at Guantanamo Bay in our own world. The justifications for the government’s actions are couched in terms of special needs and safety. The super-human paradigm puts an interesting spin on this, as these are people whose very nature makes them credible threats, regardless of intent, but what Ross is doing is clear enough.
Bryan Hitch, for all the grief he receives for his perceived lack of timeliness, does an admirable job in this issue. While some of the panels may be lacking in terms of the fine detail that they deserve, the layouts are wonderfully dynamic and pull the reader through the story.
There were only a couple of places where I felt that the panel progression could use some work, mainly in a sequence that spans two pages but isn’t clear on whether one page should be read in its entirety before moving on, or they are meant to be read as one giant spread.
Where Hitch truly shines, as always, is in his action sequences. The way he portrays certain characters in the use of the powers somehow conveys a great deal about their personalities. There are distinct differences, despite the similarity in costume design and build, that reflect what makes each of these people unique. Those differences also give some delightful hints about where these characters’ individual arcs are headed.
America’s Got Powers remains one of the most fascinating books coming out of Image right now. It may not have the utter shock value of something like Manhattan Projects or the cerebral quality of books like Saga and Fatale, but it asks hard questions and does so while guiding a diverse cast of characters on a very real journey through what it means to be free.