Warlords of Appalachia #1 ComicWow! Review

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After the New Confederacy is defeated in a second Civil War, Kentucky is the only state to hold out, not recognizing U.S. sovereignty. Thus, an intense crackdown takes place in a mountain town, Red Rock. There, a mechanic, Kade Mercer, tries to save his family. He doesn’t suspect that he will become more than just a local hero. We’re talking warlord status!

When things go wrong, there is typically one radical voice we hear on the radio or some podcast. It happened in the movie 2012, Boom! Studios’ series UFOlogy, Dark Horse’s Cryptocracy, and much more. This issue is no exception. The only difference is that this broadcast is coming straight from the president himself, telling the general American public that he is the only one they can trust. This speech serves as the narration for the entire issue. We see the president’s speech in caption bubbles, explaining the current circumstances in the U.S. Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson is really sly about this, making sure we don’t know it’s the president until the end of the issue. The president’s language is, at best, poetic. Johnson does a fantastic job of using the most persuasive of tones in this man’s issue-long monologue.

The concept of succession isn’t new, especially with Dark Horse’s Briggs Land, but this much tension and violence is. That is not to mention the political state we’re in right now… Everything in this series is still insanely relevant, and that’s scary as Hell. Despite the fact that we’ve seen this concept before, it is still able to seem new, fresh, and interesting. That’s a difficult thing to do, so I have to commend Johnson for such talent.

There is an immense amount of characterization in this issue to get the series started. Kade is a tough guy who doesn’t take crap from anyone. His main concern is keeping his aunt Rude and son Chess safe in Kentucky, heart of the crappiest time in the U.S. thus far. Chess is a quiet boy, shy and with a rather dull blue—almost grey—skin tone. This makes people think of him as a “Blueboy” (pretty dangerous people living in the woods). The American government, on the other hand, is made of fairly loud people who aren’t afraid to share how they feel (by putting down the regular citizens).

There are four groups that this issue identifies and distinguishes: Blueboys, Augmented Cavalry, Mountain Faith, Sweetrock. So far, we haven’t exactly seen the extent to which each of these affects the nation, but I sure hope we do soon.

At the end of this issue, there is complete and utter chaos. After Kade’s family is subject to harsh and unnecessary violence, he decides to take matters into his own hands and retaliate. How? Let’s just say it involves a huge tank with attached weaponry. What could he be up to?

Artist Jonas Scharf illustrates this issue with each character’s part in the storyline in mind. For example, the president is drawn as an old, bitter, frowning, angry man. Kade looks calm and cautious up until his family gets hurt. Then things get out of hand. Chess doesn’t show much emotion at all, which actually describes his personality perfectly. When Aunt Rude gets hurt, everyone rebels. Here we can see the anger in everyone’s eyes, the sadness in their tones, and the determination in their actions.

Doug Garbark’s colors are representative of the real world but show parts of it in a darker sense with Scharf’s heavily shadowed illustrations. The colors aren’t too bright, but they aren’t dulled down either. It’s a rather realistic look at what the world could become.

The premise of this storyline is one we’ve all thought about, especially in modern times with our current political problems and authoritative corruption. Connecting a work of fiction to our lives is the best way to grab readers’ attention, and Johnson does it well. This series is a great way to look at the consequences of political unrest, “defiant” or “free” citizenship (you choose), and standing up for what one thinks is right. Anyone who enjoys a dramatic storyline with political undertones is going to love this series—a beautiful work of prospect indeed.

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson

Illustrated by: Jonas Scharf

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