Overview

Damn Nation #1

Review

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Damn Nation #1

Credits

  • Words: Andrew Cosby
  • Art: J. Alexander
  • Inks: J. Alexander
  • Colors: J. Alexander
  • Story Title: Chapter 1: Dawn?s Early Light
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 16, 2005

“Homeland Security” gets a new meaning when America must be surrounded by barbed wire and armies, not to keep an enemy out, but to keep one in and away from the rest of the world. 

A soviet freighter is found floating off the coast of Miami, all 300 of its crew members dead. From what or how is unknown, but it is know that the ship set sail sixteen years before. Jump ahead five years to Britain, where a covert mission is ready for go. A commando team is headed for Buffalo, New York, where a message, “We have the cure,” has been intercepted by various intelligence agencies. Can the cure be found? What’s the nature of the illness? What will the commandos find when they land? And why is the President of the United States so interested in the outcome? 

Ok, before reading DAMN NATION #1, the reader has to know a few tidbits of backstory, so why not simply quote from the Dark Horse site:

“The United States’ borders and ports are locked down against a terrible threat. However, the barbed wire and infantries are not positioned to keep an enemy out, but to protect the rest of the world from a vampire plague that's spread over every inch of the country . . . Most of the living have fled the U.S., but a group of scientists remain behind, working on a cure. Now that they¹ve succeeded, a military operation is launched from the President's current offices in the U.S. Embassy in London, to save the cure from the encroaching undead--but the real motivations of the military remain in question.”

Premises this good are what franchises are made out of, and even though the only thing more tired these days than a vampire story is a zombie story, were I sitting behind a desk listening to this pitch, I’d greenlight the project toute suite. Unfortunately, DAMN NATION #1 hardly touches on any of the hype used to actually sell the comic. No one expects to be spoon-fed important details, but there aren’t enough intuitive and inferential connections a reader can make to get the story hyped in the quote above from what’s actually in DAMN NATION #1’s 26 pages. Having bought the comic based on its killer premise, I’m still trying to figure out what’s worse, feeling mislead as a reader, or feeling cheated as a consumer.

So, having critiqued DAMNED NATION for what’s not there, let’s now turn to what is.

First, Andrew Cosby’s script. The dialogue is tight and rhythmic—exactly the sort of TV chatter that keeps procedurals rolling right along without a dead spot. Pacing and structure within individual scenes is solid as well, but the reader has to work harder than (s)he should to make sense of how one scene flows into the next, principally because of the paucity of crucial backstory. Lacking also are names—the female character whom I take to be DAMN NATION’s main protagonist doesn’t have one at all. Finally, the final cliffhanger scene, the one that’s supposed to complicate matters for the characters and hook the reader into coming back next month—is a total dud because it’s not at all clear why the president would be so intensely interested in the events that are about to take place. 

Very early in DAMN NATION #1, one character says to another: “I don’t like being kept in the dark like this.” This line aptly describes my reaction to the artwork. J. Alexander’s most notable work has been the “Operation: Blackwall” arc in QUEEN & COUNTRY, where the angularity of his figures and his use of darkness as a storytelling element added even more depth to an already intense narrative. In DAMN NATION #1, however, something has gone wrong. The saturated burnt orange tones over the first three pages capture a foreboding tone—think “Apocalypse Now” taking place right here in America. And the same can be said of a few other panels throughout. But the rest of the comic is so drenched in darkness that I had a difficult time figuring out what was going on or just what was being depicted.  I found it so frustrating that I stopped reading twice before I slogged my way to the end wondering since when did “dark, brooding atmosphere” in a script mean “the closer to pitch black, the better.” As a result, there’s little else I can say about the artwork in DAMN NATION, simply because I couldn’t see it.

DAMN NATION #1 is far from the worst comic I’ve read in a while, but it is the most frustrating. While it’s a shame that it didn’t have to be, the real shame is that, despite it’s neat premise, there’s no way that I’ll be back for issue #2. 

- Dexter K. Flowers

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