November 25, 1997
by Chuck Miller
"Uncle Sam" is a two-issue miniseries from DC's Vertigo imprint, which has brought us the likes of "Preacher," "Hellblazer" and "The Sandman." A promotional letter describes it as "possibly one of the scariest stories we've ever produced." But, wait, there aren't any monsters or ghosts or vampires or devils in it. All it is is a look at the history and possible future of the United States.
Rush Limbaugh and others who don't like so-called "revisionist history" (not that I imagine Rush hangs out in a lot of comic book stores) won't like this. By "revisionist" we usually mean anything that shows our European ancestors in a less- than-noble light.
Written by Steve Darnall and illustrated by the great Alex Ross (who did such a fantastic job on "Marvels" and "Kingdom Come"), "Uncle Sam" takes a look at U.S. history through the eyes of...yep, Uncle Sam, who besides being a recruiting poster for the armed forces, was a Quality Comic superhero during the 1940s. DC bought the rights to all of Quality's heroes in the 70s, but never knew quite what to do with them. After a brief stint in their own mag, they fell back into limbo for another 20 years.
But Uncle Sam is back, as a confused, amnesiac, possibly schizophrenic wanderer through history and through the America of today. Nothing in here is really groundbreaking; I guess we're all aware of our various national disgraces (treatment of blacks and Indians; cynical, crooked politicians; etc.). And maybe that says something about us, that we are able to know all that we know and still shrug it off with a "What the hell are you gonna do?" attitude.
Read this comic. If you're not totally apathetic or deluded, it is indeed a lot scarier than any vampire or werewolf story.
The quality of Image Comic's "Big Bang" continues to deteriorate. It was a great little premise when it started out: A bunch of characters who were loving rip- offs of golden- and silver-age characters like the Flash, Captain Marvel, Captain America, et al. The artwork was a crude but charming, rough approximation of Bob Kane, Jack Kirby, Joe Schuster (Schuster was the artist, right? And Jerry Seigel wrote?) and others.
Now the artwork is just plain crude, and the writing is beyond the pale. One mistake they made was in trying to do swipes of early 70s Marvel stuff. They never could get the art right. At about the same time, the book went from color to black-and-white in response to low sales.
In an effort to boost those sales, they started featuring guest-stars, other Image characters like the Savage Dragon and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (for God's sake!), who just don't fit in.
I hope this title may someday recover its earlier magic, but I'm not too optimistic.