Owen Graham is an investigative reporter. Hannah Bloom is an elementary school teacher. Michael Clark is a lawyer for those downtrodden and exploited by the system. Shannon Lim is a scientist who is wondering who she’s really working for. In one moment, these four people will come together as one group, and through unfortunate circumstances, tragic accidents, and misunderstood intentions will be the symbol of those fighting against big business, polluters, and everything and everyone that’s fighting to destroy our Earth and its inhabitants. These fugitives will use social media to try and get humans back on their side and on the side of Earth – no matter what the means. But, for now, they are known to the Government, to Law Enforcement, to America as…American Terrorists.
American Terrorist, story by Tyler and Wendy Chin-Tanner with art by Andy MacDonald, is a new graphic novel that tells a story of normal people who are suddenly thrust into a spotlight that they are not sure they wanted, but are now embracing with every last breath. Owen is a reporter who interviews those in the underground – so called “eco-terrorists” – but he, unfortunately, catches the eye of a National Security Agent in the meantime. Hannah is a teacher who is just trying to get her insurance company to pay for her bi-polar disorder medication, and when they don’t, a hostage situation is born out of misunderstanding in the insurance company’s building. Michael, a friend of Owen’s, is just trying to help his friends out of a bad situation after Hannah and Owen cross paths. And, Shannon wants to show the lobbyists who run her lab that she is not going to protect them anymore, but by being with Owen and Hannah in the wrong place at the wrong time, she turns into a target of much more than a group of lobbyists. As this ragtag group travels the nation, they use social media to update the American public of their intentions and what bigger groups are trying to keep hidden. However, with every encounter, every helping hand from a stranger – they are putting people in danger because these powerful forces will not let them escape without a fight. Will the American Terrorists get to their “happily ever after” or will they disappear without a trace?
This story is at times a bit unbelievable. The group happens to get together at the same time, Owen and Hannah happen to fall in love with each other instantly after meeting, they immediately hit the road and go into hiding after an unfortunate incident at the insurance company. The didactic nature of the story can be a bit much at times, but the story is reflecting back current events that are transpiring here and now. The book is so heavy handed with their message, that I think most readers would be turned off. Readers aren’t given the ability to figure out how they feel about the group’s actions and what they’re fighting for; the authors assume that the reader needs the message blatantly dumped on the them. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect much with the characters, and felt as if they were not developed to their full potential. If given the chance to grow with these characters and see what ultimately led them to the acts they committed, I would have sympathized with them. However, I was so inundated with the idea that the characters were right no matter what, I wasn’t able to come to that conclusion naturally.
The black and white artwork switches from highly detailed and meticulously drawn to muddy and awkward. Some panels are really strong; the drawing is precise, and elements of the scene (buildings, facial characteristics, etc.) are really crisp and bright. Other panels seem muddy and not clearly drawn. Elements of the scene tend to blend together and lines aren’t as crisp as other panels. This story, while at times gripping and heartbreaking, didn’t catch enough of my attention to keep me interested. There are a few reasons for this. I felt that the characters weren’t fully developed, which might have been as a result of the didactic nature of the story. The point of view of the author and the reader were already assumed, which, I think, led to not going into a lot of background for each of the main characters. I felt disconnected from them, even though there was a little bit of a back story on each of them, if felt as if that back story was to only serve a certain purpose which was making sure each character fit into the lines that the author had already assumed for them. I wasn’t allowed to grow with them as they came to the place of anger and action; that place had already been assumed for me, and I felt like I had been plopped down into it. This book had the ability to change people’s minds about those fighting against ecological injustices in our world, but instead, forced the attitude on readers who, then, weren’t able to make up their own minds about the issue.
This story would be best for older teens and adults due to the violence and brief nudity that is included within the story.