American Terror: Confession of a Human Smart Bomb


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American Terror: Confession of a Human Smart Bomb


  • Words: Jeff McComsey & James Cooper
  • Art: James McComsey
  • Inks: James McComsey
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Volume 1
  • Publisher: Alterna Comics
  • Price: $9.95
  • Release Date: Jun 11, 2008

The world in 2041 is a fine place, free from the war and poverty of the early 21st century. The price for achieving such a world is the blood of millions.

American Terror: Confession of a Human Smart Bomb chronicles the tale of Victor Sheppard, last of a group of terrorists combating the militant corporations that set up their own sovereign territories by agreement of the powerful nations. Switching between present events and flashback sequences, we learn how a small group of operatives alters the course of history.

Several weeks ago, I recorded a program from the History Channel about the Nazi movement in America. I didn't have occasion to watch it, until the very day I read American Terror. The most chilling chapter of the documentary concerned The Turner Diaries, a novel about a group of rebels who use terrorist tactics to fight against the federal government. This novel has inspired many of the militias that dot the American landscape, and had substantial influence on Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. I don't mean to imply that James McComsey & James Cooper have any intention beyond telling a compelling tale, but I was struck by the coincidence.

In the book's present, the action takes place on Veteran's Day, a forgotten holiday in the utopian world where war has been abolished along with national divisions, hunger, poverty, and lack of medicine. Even religion has lost its influence, as a priest laments his only duty is to bury the dead. Sheppard pays his respects to one of his fallen comrades, and muses how the world does not even remember them. Through flashbacks, we discover how Sheppard came to be discharged from his military duty, and recruited into the revolutionary cause by Homer Hegal, a mysterious ringleader.

The authors touch on the dissatisfaction that Sheppard had with his place in the world, and though he becomes a sort of mercenary, he is not driven by greed, but by idealism. I appreciate how the philosophy is conveyed through the story, and through excellent character development. The story is definitely political, with the malignant influence of multi-national corporations on governments, and their designs to become political powers themselves. It is not a unique theme, with a long history in cyberpunk fiction, but it is fresh here because the dystopian future is staved off by the protagonist. Having achieved their aims, Sheppard again finds dissatisfaction as his comrades succumb to age, and doubts about their methods creep into his mind. This is not typical escapist fare, nor is it overt polemic.

McComsey uses two distinct styles for the time frames. The flashback style is rendered in detailed pencil strokes and graytones. The "unfinished" quality of it conveys the gritty past well. The art style for the present is more stylized, fully inked with zip-o-tone shading, a cleaner effect expressing the new world. The storytelling is exceptional. McComsey transitions flawlessly between prolonged action scenes, and quiet exposition. The art improves as the book progresses, specifically with regards to anatomy and perspective.

The story is very compelling and the pacing perfect with its only flaw being in the graphic novel's packaging. The four issue compilation ends at the conclusion of act one of the story. I can understand the desire to produce the collection, but it leaves the reader without a satisfying conclusion. When further chapters are completed, a larger collection would probably be warranted. Despite this however, American Terror is a winner, not only as an action adventure, but as a political musing. I look forward to reading the rest as it becomes available.

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