There is a vocal minority in the comics fandom who recently proclaimed that comics shouldn’t be political. In truth comics, like all art, have always been political. Even before the first comic strips, political cartoons were used to lash out at petty tyrants. Ben Franklin used them to convey the ideals that led to the founding of America to the largely illiterate masses and Thomas Nast helped topple Tammany Hall with his work.
This fine American tradition of speaking truth to power through pictures continued through the years to become part of the foundation of the superhero. Superman went after corrupt bankers and the KKK. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had Steve Rogers punching Adolf Hitler long before the United States entered into the second World War. Stan Lee had J. Jonah Jameson extolling the virtues of a free press and standing up for student protesters of the Vietnam War at the same time Dennis O’Neil was reimagining Green Arrow into a modern-day Robin Hood.
With Halloween Man #18, Drew Edwards continues this tradition, as he pits everyone’s favorite ever-loving, monster-eating, half-zombie hero against an evil that seems all too familiar in 21st Century America; racism. The fact that racism is represented by the Red Guard, a group of Communist Klansmen (and yes, the conflict between those ideologies is pointed out), does not diminish the power of that message.
Though comparisons are inevitable with this kind of story, I would liken this issue to the Captain America run of Steve Englehart and the comics that led to Steve Rogers giving up his name to become Nomad. Oh, we don’t see Solomon Hitch become disillusioned and hang up his shovel. Not by a long shot! But Edwards’ script sports a similar aesthetic, as the political commentary is balanced by over-the-top action sequences as Halloween Man tries to stop the Red Guard from summoning a demon to destroy the people they hate. It isn’t subtle, but it gets its point across. And who was expecting subtlety in a comic about a half-zombie superhero who eats the bad guys?
Artist Jason Wilson does a fine job of bringing Edwards’ words to life. Wilson is a good visual storyteller, and the action of the issue is well conveyed, with the characters having a real sense of weight as the conflict unfolds. Were it not for a few oddly forced expressions here and there and the colors seeming a bit too bright relative to the inking, the artwork would be flawless.
I won’t spoil the twist ending of this issue. Suffice it to say a lot of people will be upset by it. However, Edwards addresses it in both the forward and afterward of this issue and acquits himself quite well, in my opinion. Let those who wish to avoid controversy and real-world issues in their comics likewise avoid this issue. The rest of us, quite sensibly, will enjoy Halloween Man‘s moral complexity and watching a half-zombie beat up Klansmen.
Halloween Man #18 is now available on Comixology.