• Divided States Of Hysteria #2

    Divided States Of Hysteria #2
    Released by: Image Comics
    Released on: July 12th, 2017.
    Written and illustrated by: Howard Chaykin
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    Picking up where the first issue left off (and if you didn’t read the first issue you’re really going to have no clue what’s going on here), we head to New York City. Seven pregnant women with nuclear devices hidden in their wombs have laid waste to most of Manhattan, killing everyone between the East River and the Hudson River from Herald Square to the Sherry-Netherland Hotel at the northern tip of Central Park. If that weren’t bad enough, the explosion also unleashed a deadly neurotoxin we’re told will cause an additional two to three million deaths in the coming weeks. In addition to the loss of human life, the explosion has also wreaked havoc with the infrastructure of the United States’ financial system.

    Enter agent Frank Villa, being held accountable for ‘fucking this up.’ The President and her family are held safely in a bunker in Nebraska alongside Harry who calls him up and chews him out. Once he’s done, the President gets on the line for more of the same and he tenders his resignation. She accepts, and warns him that his in-laws have put a price on his head. After all, his mistake also wound up killing his wife and kid.

    News casts update us on the situation in the Tri-State area, the traffic jams, the New Jersey militia that took on the cops to keep refugees from Manhattan on their side of the George Washington Bridge and the six different groups claiming responsibility for the attack. Different panels cut to different locations as this issue plays out, showing us the after effects. Not every city is as inclusive as New York and we see the after effects of the attack and how various minority groups as punished for them, even if they had nothing to do with them. As the country’s infrastructure crumbles, it only gets worse.

    Aarif Erehmini in Philadelphia talks to Leo Nichols about Deshawn and about Aarif having burned his factory to the ground. When the phone call is over, Aarif gets a bullet to the back of his head.

    Cut to River Run Penitentiary, a privately owned (read: FOR PROFIT) and fairly massive maximum security prison where representatives of each of the six groups claiming responsibility are held. Henry John Noone, the ‘State Street Sniper’ is also held there as is an inmate named Paul Berg, an inmate named Cesare Nacamulli, an inmate named Christopher Silver (all of this ties into the first issue – pay attention!). The inmates essentially go to war with each other.

    In Saudi Arabia a C.I.A. black book named Sultan Sadil Bakir talks to a man named Kamar Ibn Ra’id in Paris who talks to Wendell ben Sabir, the leader of the Black Saviors in Atlanta, who talks to Graham Mulwray, leader of the White Knights in Las Vegas about how Jew York got what it deserved.

    In Chicago, Frank Villa is on a ‘job interview’ with Chandler Vanderglyt, the CEO of River Run, Inc. He wants to hire Frank to help President Michelle Taylor to pull the country back together again. The first order of business sees River Run fly Frank into the penitentiary while the inmates are trying to kill each other to see that peace is restored and then to interview four specific inmates…

    Chaykin essentially makes the point in this issue that the American Civil War never ended, that the states that make up the United States are more like warring tribes than one country under God and that everything, including the destruction of Manhattan is done for profit. This completely terrifying but somehow and in some ways startlingly accurate depiction of the world’s greatest democracy is a ridiculously complex story, but one that rewards those willing to invest the time and mental energy it takes to keep it all straight with a completely engrossing read. Chaykin has never been done to shy away from controversy with his work (Black Kiss anyone?) but here he’s taking his anti-social tendencies to delirious new heights, working in every conspiracy theory you’ve ever considered into one genuinely frightening narrative.

    At the same time, Chaykin being Chaykin, he’s quick to ensure that the story is not without a whole lot of (completely twisted) humor. Clearly a book not intended for children (or for easily offended adults), the comedy that’s in the book is unorthodox to be sure – much of it is racial, some of it sexual and much of it violent to a ridiculous extreme – but it’s definitely there and if you can’t laugh at it, well, you’ll just wind up crying. The artwork is done in Chaykin’s trademark style, so expect lots of square jawed manly men and an almost hyperactive attention to background detail (not really much in the way of lingerie clad ladies in this issue but it’s a safe bet that we’ll get there sooner rather than later). The panel layouts are anything but traditional and like he did in the first issue, Chaykin again employs a lot of ‘chatter’ in the backgrounds, showing us the world’s reaction to events happening in the comic in real time on social media platforms or, in the cast of the prison sequences (where the characters wouldn’t have access to said platforms) all the over the top racism inherent in their dialogue. It’s all a bit overwhelming, but then, that’s the point.

    In the back pages of this second issue Chaykin contributes a text piece in which he notes that comic books are not a democracy and that stories are, and should remain, told from the creative’s point of view. The readership has no bearing on the outcome and those who don’t like it have the option to simply not indulge. Chaykin makes the point that he doesn’t like seafood or hip hop and so he doesn’t eat seafood or listen to hip hop. All of this leads into an interesting piece where he talks about feedback to the series’ first issue, much of which seemed to involve various parties feeling entitled to voicing their opinions in an effort to change his work, or at the very least, his views. Chaykin’s reaction? “Don’t buy my fucking book.”