Pullbox Reviews: American Dreams #2 – Superheroes & villains, set when America was still young…

Taking advantage of schematics left behind by former employee Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edison attempted to tap into a source of unlimited energy. Opening a doorway that would have been better left closed, Edison found the power he was looking for but he couldn’t control it. The energy poured through the rift and sought out hosts, people from all walks of life- poor, rich, good, bad. Everyone touched by it were made equal as they gained new abilities, with no idea that the source of these gifts was something very old & malevolent.

With a less than ideal background, Jake Gold was singled out to represent something greater. A young Jewish immigrant working in a New York sweatshop, he is bound to the American Spirit. Stronger when the people stand united, Jake will have to decide how best to use these powers. More importantly, he’s eventually going to have to deal with their source. Everything has a price, even… especially… in the land of opportunity.

American Dreams hit my radar, thanks to Joe Khachadourian when he sent a post out into the twitterverse, encouraging people to take a look. I thought that a superhero narrative set around the turn of the 20th century sounded like an interesting new spin, so I gave it a shot. Having purchased and read the first two issues, I’m pretty happy that I did. This is a well thought out story that brings together multiple elements not normally combined in quite this way. The historical setting sets it apart from other titles, pointing out the vast differences & glaring similarities between then and now. While it isn’t necessarily a high point in American history, full of divisive prejudices & oppressive classism, there’s also a lot of hope in that time. The country was young, going through growing pains as it matured, and was only starting to realize its potential (hopefully we’re actually able to get there some day).

The brain child of Daniel Kalban, the main character of American Dreams is in that exact same boat. It’s a slick little parallel, showing Jake Gold’s realization that he can be something more, someone better than he has been. Kalban did some homework on the time he’s chosen to highlight in his book, & went to great pains to make sure that it wasn’t all apple pie. New York in the early 1900’s was divided, not only by class but also by race as members of the Jewish, Irish, & Italian communities were drawing lines fighting over what they perceived as “theirs”. With the discovery of his new powers- and with those powers tied to the strength of the American Dream- Jake has to find a new path that doesn’t involve adhering to divisive lines of race, creed, or social status.

A strong story idea needs strong artwork to drive it home (from the proverbial comic shop and into the eager hands of new readers). The work done by the team of Dody Eka, Tebe Andry, & Warnia Sahadewa would hold up in a side by side comparison with any of the higher profile books from larger publishers. Eka’s pencils are sharp (ha, see what I did there?), Andry’s lines are crisp and when their powers combine the effect is a classic looking style suited for the environments they’re building. Adding in Sahadewa’s colors, which do a great job of showing dingy slums contrasted with the bright lights of the growing city, and American Dreams is a comic that looks ready to live up to its potential.

Granted, there are parts in issue two that seemed a little rushed, plot points taking narrative leaps in order to move things along, but as a whole American Dreams is a great comic. Kalban and company are putting together a superhero story that’s as familiar as it is new, mixing elements usually kept apart. Historical figures like Thomas Edison & Harry Houdini are rubbing elbows with Lovecraftian mythos, and I’m not gonna lie… I love that kind of twist. This is a new comicbook universe being built, and with only two issues in the can it’s a great time for readers to jump in.

Final Score: 9

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