with, in my opinion, extremely important art continuity provided by colorist Len O’Grady. A transition between artists can feel really jarring, but Mr O’Grady did a spectacular job of keeping things consistent, such that I wouldn’t even have noticed a different artist on my first reading if I hadn’t already known that going in.
And while technically this is the first volume of Cla$$War, the rest has yet to be written. Will it ever be? Never say never, but I’m leaning towards no, given that the series first appeared in 2002, with the last three issues of six coming out a full two years after its debut.
That said, how do you top a book so sorrowfully prescient, that helped pave the way for not only monster cultural hits like The Boys but also demonstrated how the Internet would enable the world’s ongoing disillusionment with politics, particularly American? Sure this title seems like a natural bridge between relatively mainstream books that began to seriously question power in the real world, like Ultimate Avengers and The Authority (heck, even WildC.A.T.s), with more cynical explorations of how power is misused, a la The afore-mentioned Boys. More importantly it captures that turn of the 20th century era in American history when the public’s eyes were opened to the shocking overreach of our government. From the drug and illegal arms sales of the 80s, to the Wag The Dog expose of the 90s, onto Dubya’s copious missteps, this is a book that directs an unflinching eye at American politics in all its messiness and lies. It probably helps that this was written by a Welshman who had no illusions about this side of the Atlantic: it’s genuinely hard to think of any American in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 writing so honestly on these topics. It also probably helps that Britain has a much better history of skewering politics through comics than we do, as Alan Moore’s widely acclaimed V For Vendetta masterfully shows.
Mr Moore was definitely an influence here, as Rob Williams attests in his afterword, originally written for the 2008 collection. It’s weird how timeless his words continue to feel, as American governments and administrations — and likely many more around the world; I’m not naive enough to think that we’re uniquely compromised — continue to think they can get away with lying to their citizens. On the plus side, our reality is blessedly free of government-sponsored superheroes, to be misused as weapons by those in control.
Smart, sordid, and nowhere near as gratuitous as some of the books that have followed in its footsteps, Cla$$War is a thoughtful take on superhero titles — with tons of parallels to existing heroes that somehow manage to elude direct imitation — that is well worth a read for anyone with an interest not only in mature tales of supers and sober examinations of American politics, but also in the history of comic books. It feels very much an important step in how the culture of British anti-establishmentarianism was brought into the American comics mainstream, and deserves wider recognition and acclaim.
Cla$$war (Vol 1) by Rob Williams, Trevor Hairsine & Travel Foreman was published August 8 2023 by Image Comics and is available from all good booksellers, including