Days of Hate #1
“Chapter One: America First”
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist/Cover artist: Danijel Zezelj
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Writer Ales Kot must have been nerve-wracked as he waited for this comic book to be released, wondering if the possible prophecies of his prose might come true, and I expect the experience will be a perpetual one throughout the 12-issue run. This story flows entirely from the socio-political upheaval in the United States right now and the emboldening of white supremacy in that country. Every day, there’s a new development in politics that would have been thought to be impossible in previous decades. But more than anything, I can’t help but wonder if the near-future Kot imagines in this story isn’t so much near but immediately impending. Days of Hate isn’t so much a piece of fiction, but a prediction if racism and the wealth gap are allowed to continue to grow, threatening to swallow what was once viewed as perhaps the most progressive and idealistic nation on the planet, rather than the shithole country many worry it’s in danger of becoming.
The U.S. Civil War is legendary for how it tore families apart, as brother sided against brother in the conflict between the North and the South, chiefly over the issue of slavery. Now, in 2022, America is at war with itself again. With bigots getting bolder as they lash out at those they deem less than themselves, there are regular citizens who have embraced violent tactics to fight back, and that’s led to them being branded terrorists. On the other side, a corrupt government that rose to power on the shoulders of “the alt right” is desperate to maintain control. Caught in the middle is the rest of the population. Amanda and Huian were once a couple in love, but they’re torn asunder by conflicting philosophies of justice and peace.
I’ve loved Danijel Zezelj’s striking and unique style ever since I first saw it adorning titles from DC’s Vertigo line in the early 2000s. His art has appeared pretty steadily in the North American comics market for the past 20 years, and usually on some mature and thoughtful books. That’s no exception with Days of Hate. His deeply dark linework is a great match for this material. While his art is quite stylized, there’s also a strong sense of realism at work, and he boasts a great eye for anatomy. That mix of noir but convincing visuals is vitally important to the success of this subject matter. His presentations of the Los Angeles cityscape in a pivotal scene is hauntingly beautiful and impressively cinematic in scope.
Jordie Bellaire employs a rather morose color palette that reinforces the tragic and tense nature of the socio-political backdrop and plot elements. I like that a more unnatural tone dominates the den of white supremacists into which an undercover character treads. It seems to mirror the subtly painful glow of artificial lighting, thereby reinforcing the unsettling and perverse nature of the racists’ beliefs. Aditya Bidikar’s letterforms are a bit difficult to read at times; I don’t care for the style of the lettering, though it doesn’t obfuscate the script to the point of distraction either. One of the most striking visuals is the deeply red cover and the contradictory image of tenderness and torture in the center of that cover. The odd right justification of the preposition in the title is a bit puzzling, but it’s so dramatic, I’m convinced the choice is intended for effect or meaning. What that intention might be eludes me, though.
The real-life political and social environment in the United States and some other democracies in the world is the foundation upon which this story is built. As such, it’s dark, it’s dire, it’s distressing — like watching cable news or scanning social media. Fortunately, there’s an oasis of calm to be found in the story, and that’s the quietly strong characterization that Kot has brought to bear. The most poignant and clear character-driven bits are found in Huian Xing’s interrogation scene, which, by the end of the issue, spells out the history of the two main characters. The universal humanity of Amanda and Huian’s love story allows the audience to see themselves in this conflict. Relating to these characters in such extreme circumstances makes understanding those circumstances all the more believable.
This book is only set four years into the future, so it’s far from science fiction — it’s social science friction, I suppose. In many ways, Days of Hate reminds me of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Scarlet, an extreme but realistic vision of a response to police brutality and corruption. Kot and Zezelj offer a vision of a potential reaction to the growing fracture in America at the moment. I think it could be argued this is even a probable outcome, should things continue deteriorating economically and politically at the pace we’ve seen in the past couple of years. This comic book is part of an important discussion — one that should be taking place on the planet and hopefully is. 9/10
Note: This comic book is scheduled for release Jan. 17.