The Divided States of Hysteria #1 (Review)

The Divided States of Hysteria #1
Image Comics © 2017

Writer & Artist: Howard Chaykin
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Cover Colorist: Wil Quintana
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Editor: Thomas K.
Production: Carey Hall

The cover was very enticing along with the title of a very political book, as Image offers a synopsis as “An America sundered. An America enraged. An America terrified. An America shattered by greed and racism, violence and fear, nihilism and tragedy… …and that’s when everything really goes to hell.” It follows that, I guess. We start out with CIA agent, husband (cheater) and father Frank Villa. The setting is in 2020 America, with a president and their cabinet that was recently assassinated in failed coup’. Drones patrol the skies everywhere. So far, so good but then we are introduced to several other characters. Each of these characters are not part of the status-quo elite like a young black man, a Jew and you catch the drift. Problem is we are introduced to so many that the narrative gets hard to follow as we cut from one to another, along with Frank Villa. The narrative is trying to juggle too many cases at once.

Artistically the pencils come off as rough sketches with colors slapped on topped, rather than filled in. Plus, the attractive women and square jaw-lined men are few and between. No, we have average looking Americans instead. People have lots of fat and or lots of hair… in places. It’s very welcoming change from big breasted Jim Lee women and hammers the point home of America is not a nice place, especially to look at it. The addition of on-going snapchats, texts, Facebook posts and tweets running throughout the pages are a nice touch. It adds to the constant on-the-go nature of America today. It can be a bit distracting, but that’s the point I feel. One problem came from our letterer and page lay-out. So many times we have a full page with dialogue but taking place without the characters on the page, instead we look at the outside of the building. Meanwhile, the speech balloons are non-traditional and resemble more of text message boxes, with tails that are more rectangular and easy to miss when glanced over. The narration that ends in pauses followed by loads of dialogue only to be continued on the next page also gives the narrative is muddy flow.

The creator has something interesting to say, I can feel it. The artist knows and they all know it, but they bet it all at once with a story that is quite difficult to follow with numerous players being introduced and pages upon pages of dialogue. That is not to say this comic has plot holes and lacks exposition but it may take a few reads to truly digest all of this rich material.

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