Cla$$war: The Collected Edition

Enola Gay – A team of super-powered heroes, created by the US government as instruments of American foreign policy, help bring order to a chaotic world. But, all is not well. AMERICAN, the figurehead of the team is AWOL and angry as hell, posing a major security alert to both the President and the entire nation. But why? What made this national hero take such drastic action and turn his back on the country that made him? And how can the government bring him in without revealing the bloody truth behind their seat of power?

Finally I’ve got this hardcover in my grubby little paws! As anyone who knows me knows I have switched primarily to digital for my comics now, but every once and awhile I make an exception. Cla$$war was a 6-issue miniseries published by a small British comic-book company called Com.x back in 2002. It was written by Rob Williams and originally drawn by Trevor Hairsine, but after the 3rd issue Hairsine got poached by Marvel Comics, which delayed the completion of the series. I hear they hired some other artist who got started on issue #4, but then he got hired by Marvel too so they just scrapped his work until they found Travel Foreman to complete the series. This all delayed completion of the book until around 2004, and I believe that diluted the book’s impact. By then Marvel’s Supreme Power which had a similar tone to Cla$$war had come out and so, even though it was first, Cla$$war looked like the copycat, and was overlooked. But it’s really a great series, and I’m glad I stuck with it to the end, even with all the delays. Back in 2008 this hardcover was released, which I didn’t get because I already had the single issues. But I was looking up something else on Amazon last week and this popped up in my “suggested” box, so I said what the hell, let me finally buy it.

And boy am I glad that I did!

It’s great to hold this big hardcover in my hands and admire the artwork now in larger pages. And there’s some nice extras, an 8-page prologue, some character sketches and Williams’ original written proposal for the series. I guess I should describe the story a bit (trying to keep spoilers to a minimum). Taking place in the present, this is an alternate history where America created these superheroes (as the result of experiments from an old ex-Nazi scientist) and first revealed them to the world back when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. President Bush sent the team to push the Iraqi army out, which they did in days, therefor preventing any Persian Gulf War. Since then they’ve been used in many foreign and domestic conflicts and become celebrities. The members of the team are American, Young American, and Icon (who is a woman), who are all “Superman”-type heroes (super-strong, invulnerable, flight, etc.), Burner, who can create fire, Confusion, a woman with telepathic abilities (who is also a little bit mentally unstable herself) and Heavyweight, a Black former Heavyweight boxing champion with super-strength. This is very much a “superheroes in the real world” setting, there are flashbacks of American fighting and killing a Russian superhuman who is basically his counterpart, and it was this death that makes American begin to question his role as a government stooge. Other than that, there is no mention of other superheroes (or villains) in this series.

American  teams up with some rebels to expose corruption in the government, revealing many of the covert ops that he has been a part of. The government sends the rest of the team to kill him first, and they succeed in killing Young American (it’s not really clear why, he doesn’t appear to be involved in American’s plan and is more concerned with partying and getting laid). And to distract from the scandals that American has revealed the shadow government behind the President (who is basically just a puppet figurehead) plan to begin a war in a small South American country, which also happened to be the base of some secret drug-running by the C.I.A., which American is trying to uncover next. Well, a nuclear bomb will wipe out the whole country, and all the evidence of the drug-scheme, and hopefully American, too. Will he survive? READ THIS BOOK TO FIND OUT!

There’s also a subplot of one particular Secret Service agent who enlists the old ex-Nazi scientist to make him a superhuman so he can guard the President against American and is transformed into…something I can’t describe. I’ll just say that it leads to the greatest scene of dialog that I’ve ever read in a comic-book…

Setting: The Oval Office of The White House
2/What the fuck was that?
3/Uh…it appears that my left leg has just eaten your dog.
4/Now there’s a sentence I’ve never heard before.

So, strong solid dramatic writing. And the artwork by Hairsine and Foreman is outstanding. They’re both great artists and their style is similar enough, yet distinctive, that it’s not a jarring change when it switches halfway through the book. Particularly beautiful sequences to look out for are American vs. a squad of fighter jets in mid-air, and then later when he goes against the U.S.S. John Kennedy. It’s pretty awesome. And all beautifully colored by Len O’Grady.

Williams always said he had a 6-issue sequel planned, to make this one long 12-issue epic. Sadly, it’s doubtful that will ever come to pass. But this book still tells one satisfying story, so I highly recommend it with a Chacebook rating of FIVE STARS

Like me, you can get this hardcover on AMAZON or you can get the issues individually via COMIXOLOGY, where the first issue is currently FREE, so you can check it out before making a decision to buy the rest. So there’s no excuse, what are you waiting for?!? GET IT!

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