The American Way
by John Ridley, Georges Jeanty
(WildStorm, 2007)

The superheroes were real.

But the superheroics were not.

It was, for a time, The American Way.

It's the early 1960s, and the United States is nervous. Communism is spreading, the Cold War is in full swing, and Russia has put a man in space and missiles in Cuba. On the home front, racial tensions threaten to tear the country apart. It's a time for heroes, and luckily America has some -- a few genuine superpowers mixed with the products of genetic labwork and scientific trickery.

But they're far too valuable as public icons to risk in actual combat with dangerous villains, so -- apart from the occasional mugger or street thug -- the Civil Defense Corps engages in violent, newsmaking battles with ... actors.

Yes, actors. The government has created villains to provide foils for the CDC, giving the credulous public something to cheer for. After all, there's no reason to worry about Russia when the likes of Phobos, Freya, Ole Miss, Old Glory and Amber Waves are here to protect us.

Westley Catham is just a normal guy, a marketing genius who once sold cars. Now he sells heroes, pulling the strings to convince the public that all is right with the world -- but Westley's conscience is one of the first casualties in the struggle. And then things start to go wrong. A hero dies. An inconvenient spouse is murdered. A killer is let loose, but fails to follow his programming. And an accidental unmasking reveals a popular new hero to be "colored" -- and America isn't ready for that shocking truth.

Nor, it turns out, are many of the other heroes.

The American Way is a tense, gripping story set in a volatile time. Following in the gilded footsteps of Alan Moore's classic The Watchmen, writer John Ridley gives us heroes who suffer the same failings and bigotries as the "normal" people around them. Some will rise above those failings, while others, of course, will surrender to them.

Destined to be a classic, The American Way is an exciting, sometimes heartbreaking tale.

by Tom Knapp
17 March 2007

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