By Robert Larson
It feels like there’s been a real explosion in the number of comics dealing with a second civil war (DMZ), secessionist movements (Briggs Land), or American military occupations (We Stand on Guard). This latest one breaks a bit of new ground by dealing with the aftermath of the first two and the midst of the third, this time in the state of Kentucky. It throws out some interesting ideas, though the narrative structure left some things in the air that could be secret for now, or just inconsistencies. I want to like it, but I’ll need another issue.
After a second civil war was fought over religious liberty, the breakaway Associated States of America were crushed and reabsorbed into the United States, but Kentucky refuses to go peacefully. While the U.S. government tries to keep conditions on the ground a secret, Kentuckians live in desperate circumstances. A man named Kade Mercer has been trying to live his life quietly, but the medical aid he provides to locals ends up getting him in trouble with the occupiers. Simultaneously, events on the ground move faster than the army can respond to, and the fragile peace is destroyed by a new uprising.
There’s a lot we don’t know, and I can’t quite tell if they’re deliberately constructed secrets, or overlooked plot-holes. Obviously, there are the real circumstances of the war, which the ASA claimed was for religious liberty and the USA claimed was to prevent religious extremism, but we don’t really know more than that. That’s just the beginning, though. We know that somebody is parachuting supplies into Kentucky, but who? That’s not just sending a care package in the mail: it would either be another country, or an extremely well-equipped group. Why is the President of the United States making broadcasts on the radio railing against the mainstream media? Is his grasp on power that weak? I hope it’s that, because otherwise the speeches on the radio were just exposition that the reader didn’t really need to put all of this together.
I notice there’s usually a rush in Boom! titles to get to the action, in part because so many of them are miniseries and don’t have the luxury of lying idle. That doesn’t appear to be a limitation for this series, and while it did move into action pretty quickly, it did at least feel like a logical progression of events. I liked that religion was set up as the reason for this conflict but it didn’t portray the characters as religious zealots. It would have been easy to fall back on the “toothless Appalachian primitive” stereotype, which it actually seems to be trying to undercut. The only element that felt out of place was the superdrug Blue Rock, which I guess makes its users into some kind of zombie. I’m not sure I see a need for that (apart from being a too-easy reference to the problems with drug addiction in rural America), but that could change.
Even if I’m not totally sold on this series, the hooks that were tossed out are strong enough to get me to come back for a second issue. I do want to see some of what I’ve brought up addressed, but I’ll give it a chance to see where it’s going first.
Warlords of Appalachia #1
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artists: Jonas Scharf, Doug Garbark, and Jim Campbell
Publisher: Boom! Studios