Fair enough, Ales Kot and Danijel Zezelj’s new Image Comics 12-parter, Days Of Hate, is set at some unspecified (though we know it’s post-2020) future date, but who the hell are we kidding? The story (or “chapter,” as the back cover would have it) title of this debut issues is “America First,” so that pretty much tells you all you need to know right there. In case you’re unsure as to the (entirely justified) target of these creators’ wrath, though, some overly-expository dialogue over the course of the opening pages makes it clear, and after that any MAGA douchebag still reading has only themselves to blame if their blood pressure goes up a few points. This is obviously a dystopian, nationalist, fascist future with its roots very firmly in the present day. I like most of Kot’s other work (although his most intriguing project, Material, was abandoned at a frustratingly early juncture), most of Zezelj’s, and I hate Trump’s festering, fat, decrepit old racist guts, so what the hell — I was sold on giving this book a try from the outset. Now — does it give me good reason to stick around?
Comparisons to Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta are sure to flow freely in discussions of this comic, and rightly so, but the premise has certainly been tweaked to make it seem more plausible to contemporary audiences — yeah, the assholes were elected into office in Days just as they were in V, but this is taking place in the US rather than Britain, people seem to have an active “resistance” going already, and there hasn’t been a nuclear war (that we know of yet, at any rate). Kot also seems to be splitting his (and, by extension, our) attention between two protagonists, as well, one of whom is on the side of the angels, one the devils, who share a tragic past and now find themselves on opposite sides of the struggle to either overthrow, or preserve and expand the power of, the state for reasons reasons that are more personal than political — at least on the surface.
You could draw some quick stylistic parallels between Zezelj’s art and Lloyd’s in terms of its darkness, its grittiness, its “lived-in” look and feel, but to be honest I think the illustration in this book has a stylistic lineage that can be more directly traced back to Bernard Krigstein than anyone else with its angularity, its cinematic scope and movement, its inventive and off-kilter “camera” focus. Its stunning to look at — every bit as stunning as Zezelj’s work on the similarly-themed Starve, if not moreso — and suits the script to a proverbial “T,” but again, it does invite almost as much comparison to V as does the script.
But hey, what of it? If you’re gonna draw inspiration from something, it may as well be from the best. I don’t think we’re going to get anything like an equal-parts-intellectual-and-heartfelt anarchist polemic in this comic in issues to come — Kot seems at least as concerned with the “micro” realities of his characters’ daily lives as he is with the “macro” outlines of his world’s socio-political system and potential responses to same — but at some point we’ll hopefully get more than a vague and amorphous struggle for whatever passes for “freedom” from this conflict of philosophical should-be-absolutes.
Another trope I’d love to see Kot crib from Moore to one degree or another would be the inclusion of a critical examination of the motives and methodologies of his ostensible “heroes,” as well. If you’re taking on a well-nigh-insurmountable authoritarian apparatus, it only stands to reason that you’ll need to resort to some desperate measures, and not all of those measures are going to be entirely palatable to the average functioning human conscience. Kot’s fairly wide-open premise leaves the door open for this kind of de facto self-analysis, so there’s no reason not to go down this road, and it would, in fact, be a pretty massive cop-out to avoid it altogether. So I’m curious to see what develops in that regard.
And hey, I’m curious to see where his pair of antagonists goes, as well. They’re drawn in broad-stroke generalities typical of a first issue here, but there’s enough “meat” on their character “skeletons” to establish intrigue, perhaps even a sense of compassion. The victim of the duo being aligned with the bad guys, the aggressor with the good isn’t an entirely original narrative twist, I’ll grant you that, but it’s still a good one, and if the plot is structured in such a manner so as to maximize the impact of forthcoming revelations and story “beats,” this could shape up to be a page-turning read, as well as one that makes you think. Here’s to hoping, right?
Jordie Bellaire’s colors are also very worthy of both a mention and a nod here, accentuating mood and “coating” various scenes with variations on single hues (most notably reds and browns) to give pages a uniformly, and suitably, post-modern (fuck, nearly post-apocalyptic) look and feel. Zezelj’s stylized, idiosyncratic line art literally demands an equally-unique color palette be applied to it in order to bring out, even multiply, its strengths, and Bellaire — as, let’s face it, she always does — certainly delivers on that score.
All told, then, I felt like I got my four bucks’ worth out of Days Of Hate #1 — it’s tremendously unsubtle, sure, but the threat posed by Trump, his fascist (sorry, “alt-right”) cohorts, and their congressional enablers isn’t exactly nuanced, or even debatable, at this point. Things are gonna get a hell of a lot worse if we don’t get serious about fighting back en masse, and far as cautionary fables as to where things will be headed if we don’t are concerned, it seems Kot and Zezelj may just be cooking up a doozy.