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Uncle SamUncle Sam is perhaps one of America's most enduring icons - a fictional amalgamation of the spirit of the American people and their government, whose most famous moment is arguably the 'I want you' poster calling American men to fight in World War I. In the hands of Steve Darnall and Alex Ross, Uncle Sam is transplanted into the modern era: a down and out haunted by the shocking reality of America past, ignored by the present and with little by way of a future.
Darnall uses a giddying torrent of flashbacks to place Sam in many of the situations in American history where its citizens have behaved despicably toward themselves. Sam moves through the genocide of the native American, the horror of slavery and civil war, to evils perpetrated in the modern era. The flashbacks are as confusing to Sam's view as they are shocking to ours, asking not where the dream of freedom and liberty disappeared to, but whether it ever even existed.
As with Ross' other graphic works, every panel is painstakingly painted to photo-realistic effect. This adds dimension to Darnall's mumbling protagonist and adds feeling of actuality to some of the grim flashbacks that would never nor could ever be captured by a lens.
The biggest problem is that the book offers no solution to Sam's dilemma, perhaps because there isn't one. The moral tone is well stationed on the high ground but it offers little more than an, albeit pretty, stroll through the hypocrisy of the American dream. As a documentary, it's too heavy on the fiction; as a fiction, too obsessed with Sam's past to offer any character development. Perhaps this is part of the message, but if it is then the message isn't eloquent or compelling enough to complete its meaning. Which is a shame, because if the overall impact of this book could be as strong as that World War I poster, more people might be trying to encourage America toward an outbreak of peace.
Titan Books (UK)
DC Comics (US)
Originally published as
Uncle Sam 1-2