Here’s another perfect example why you need to hit up conventions and the Artist Alley folks. I found this because a friend of mine was selling these for Evan at the Cincinnati Comic Expo and just the cover alone featuring John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln was enough to grab my attention. Then flipping through it I found myself drawn to Evan’s interior illustrations which have this great black and white sketch quality to them and I knew I had to have the first issue to read. Folks I know many people are hesitant to try self published books but this is where the real heart and soul of the industry lies these are labours of love and the storytelling features great talent you normally aren’t exposed to!
So think about it what do these two Presidents have in common 100 years apart from each other. They were both assassinated and were both considered to be great men. So how on Earth would they end up in a book together? Evan takes science to a logical place and are regenerated material of dead men, yeah sounds like a zombie thing doesn’t it but let me tell you who cares they have been grown, cloned or made from tissue samples this concept and the science involved is fascinating. It really makes me think of the whole we never asked if we should do it we did it because we could mentality that is so prominent in mankind.
The opening of this series is what gets you and after that we see the beginnings of the story unfold. It really does border genius in it’s conception, execution and enjoyment level. JFK is driving a rusted ‘72 Cadillac running from the Secret Service while Lincoln with an arm tattoo proclaiming Emancipator going down his arm is keeping them and the FBI off their tail. Turns out the 16th President of the United States is a crack shot with modern guns and while his speech pattern is definitely befitting the era he lived his enjoyment of modern armory devices is clearly evident.
Think of it these two men known for the greatness and the all too short lived tenures of their Presidencies together on the run from scientists and the government alike is a modern Thelma and Louise with a huge twist. What’s not to like about it, they’ve got to come to terms that they didn’t just wake up from their assassination attempts and the lies the doctors, see scientists, have been telling them and strike out on their own and live their lives in the here and now. All the while being hunted because well let’s face it they shouldn’t exist in this era let alone at all. That however is half the intrigue factor here!
While part of me hopes that we’ll see Evan explore the science used in bringing these men back to life the other part of me is just hoping for a massive media backlash that both men are alive and running around in what could be considered a crime spree! Two very much dead on lookalikes, to the media anyway, who happen to be the real McCoy’s are shooting ordinance in public in what i’m assuming is a stolen car and this is just the beginning. We’ve still got to learn why this happened and what organization was behind not only financing it but what their real endgame is in having this kind of technology available to them.
This is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of those rare instances that redefines your comic book reading experience. I can’t wait to see what happens next now to get ahold of the other issues available.
Two American heroes, apparently back from the dead, written with such clarity to make them seem real, though as yet, not all the details have been made clear. For those familiar with the dense and brilliant work in Derian’s previous Insignificant Gods, in this case a clever and detailed background becomes clear, mixing with characters far less antiheroic and making this the more obvious cinematic candidate of the two. The story starts off with the mystery of their awakening in what seem like contemporary times, and quickly moves into an action-packed chase that keeps the pressure on even as they discover how much technology – and the United States – have changed since each of their presidencies. Atop this, when he writes these two presidents, he seems to practically channel their speech patterns, which proves positively awe-inspiring when it comes to the way he writes Abraham Lincoln. After other recent cinematic offings involving Honest Abe, putting this movie together seems a perfect candidate. Obviously, the biggest challenge here is to get not only lookalikes, but act-alikes for the presidents in question, and the others that appear in this story. Perhaps here in particular, it might be useful to go with professional re-enactors over typical Hollywood talent.
Take a look at that wonderful cover. No one can walk by this thing and ignore it. It demands to be noticed. Two of the greatest American presidents holding up guns like b-movie heavies? You simply can’t go wrong with that.
Writer and illustrator Evan Derian starts out pretty strongly, too. The story begins with JFK and Lincoln being chased through the streets of Detroit by the Secret Service. Just an old rust bucket Caddy being followed by a bunch of helicopters. Lincoln looks like a tattooed thug (EMANCIPATOR down his right arm) while JFK looks, well, he looks kind of like Steve McQueen. And, uh, did Lincoln just shoot down a Secret Service helicopter with a bazooka?! How did they get in this situation, especially since they’re kind of dead?
Glad you asked. Someone (it’s not clear who) has “revived” both of these men through science. It is not explained if their bodies were treated with something to restore their lives, or if they are clones. The important thing is, they’ve gone to great lengths to get both of these men to think that just a few days have passed since their respective assassination attempts. They hire actors to dress up in period costumes to pretend to be doctors and nurses. They put an illusion of old-time Washington, DC, outside of Lincoln’s hospital room.
But then, things get kind of weird when a nurse double-crosses her boss and sets JFK free to wander around. It gets downright surreal as he discovers the whole thing has been a sham. And then, absolute horror dawns upon him when he realizes that he’s not alone in this mess.
But why have they been brought back? By whom? There are so many questions, the readers must be frustrated at the end of the issue when very little is understood. In fact, one of the few complaints about this book is that the pacing is just a little too slow. Also, there is a scene where one of the doctors says this: “So … explain to me again the objectives of our breakthrough?” Ugh. Come on. Derian should be above such cheap exposition tricks.
The only other drawback is the art. A lot of the time, it’s kind of sloppy, and the layouts are confusing. But! When Derian is on, he is FUCKING ON. Halfway through the book, there is a wonderful splash page that must be seen to be believed. It’s really beautiful.
The negatives are outweighed by the positives by far. If you’re not reading this book, you’re a fool. Be sure to keep an eye out for the second issue, which is titled FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, SCREW THE PEOPLE. (And don’t forget to take the MISERABLE AMERICANS quiz on the inside back cover!)
MISERABLE AMERICANS #1: WAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
Written and illustrated by Evan Derian
Published by Evan Derian
$3.50 (Not bad for 30 pages, eh?)