American Carnage has been unafraid to take an unflinching look at American society since its first issue. Writer Bryan Hill’s story has been a great — if difficult at times — tale to read. Each new issue seems like it has led to a peak in the tense action that will be followed by a breather for the reader. Issue number five proves that Hill is not ready to provide the break quite yet.
American Carnage #5 starts where the last issue left off. Immediately, the gritty art style of Leandro Fernandez grabs readers’ attentions. Whether a person has been following from the beginning or have just come on board, the art will make them feel uncomfortable. Fernandez gives all of his characters a rough look. Everyone has a look of anger, fear or desperation. It’s telling that the one genuine smile in the book is on a mask.
Panel placement is spectacular in the issue. The opening page is a series of panels that give a clue as to what is happening. Each scene builds to a full page splash that is sickening and terrifying. Fernandez uses this same tactic many times during the issue, with each moment bringing gravity to the situation. The highlight may be a confrontation between Rick and Jennifer — panel placement is exceptional in a moment that is touching and tense.
The use of shadows and colors also stands out in the fifth issue. The aforementioned exchange uses shadows in a way that makes what would be a fairly normal conversation into something much more dramatic. Wynn Morgan’s face is also shrouded in shadows very often. This is the perfect touch for a character who is very much surrounded by secrecy.
American Carnage #5 continues its amazing storytelling. One thing has become evident this issue: while the series has been filled with tense action, it has also taken a slower approach with some aspects of the plot. The first issue gives a general overview of what readers will be dealing with. Obviously, race relations will be tackled, but there were also hints that the class divide, politics, and what it means to live the American Dream would be touched on. As the series continues, more of these topics are being revisited.
The importance of politics and how Americans perceive politicians is a central part of issue five. A conversation held between Special Agent Curry and a Democratic politician takes place over the course of American Carnage. The entire scene is a cynical look at the political machine that also highlights class and race disparities. It is a well written and powerful scene that adds layers to the book.
Hill has done a great job of weaving a complex narrative and American Carnage provides profound commentary on the current state of the country. The comic has used a savage killing as the impetus to delve into deeper societal issues. Still, it was nice to see Rick’s investigation advance.
American Carnage #5 is another powerful issue in an important series. Comic books are a great escape from the harsh realities of life, but sometimes these diversions can also be used to tell us more about ourselves. Hill takes a hard look at America in a story that is as repulsive as it is important.