Cla$$ War Series One Collected. And that, unfortunately, is all there is….
Written by Rob Williams, art by Trevor Hairsine and Travel Foreman
Class War (or Cla$$ War to be precise) is big, widescreen superhero action, full of tormented supersoldiers questioning their place in a world they no longer recognise, lots of ultra-violence and a smattering of politics. Once upon a time, this sort of thing was all the rage, and as much as it has a stylistic forebear in Ellis’ widescreen comics (Stormwatch, Authority), it also has a thematic forebear in Alan Moore’s Miracleman, with ideas of god-like superbeings imposing their own political will on a crappy world and there’s a big nod to Fleetway’s Crisis magazine; all righteous anti-establishment leanings in a world of brightly coloured spandex wearing heroes and villains. I remember New Statesmen by John Smith, Jim Baikie, Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo and I’ll bet that Williams did as well as he sat down with Class War in his mind.
If this were to be released new today, it would just be weighed down terribly by comparisons to all of the above, especially Ellis’ Authority and possibly Millars’ Ultimates. Luckily Class War was conceived and published between 2000 and 2004 in the earliest stages of this widescreen superhero boom so it struck whilst the iron was hot and quickly garnered rave reviews.
Unluckily Class War was published by ComX, new kids on the block who were about to hit the worst run of luck they could possibly not wish for. Things went wrong, deadlines slipped, books were delayed, the momentum of such strong first reactions was lost and most importantly very few people actually saw the book. But now ComX is back and the complete Class War is a lovely 200+ page hardcover collection of the original 6 issues, together with new story by Williams and Hairsine and extensive back matter.
(Political negotiation, Class War style. The American has a quiet chat with the President. From Class War Collected Series One, big, widescreen art by Trevor Hairsine.)
In Class War, the main thrust of the story can be covered very quickly as “big, powerful American icon of a superhero takes a hard look at his world and finds it wanting”. Being prettty much alll powerful, our disillusioned hero decides to start making changes, altering political landscapes, stopping wars and seriously pissing off the American government of the time (the president just happens to be an inept, power crazy Texas moron). From the start, the American has a rather hands on approach to his idea of effecting political change; first meeting with the President begins with the greeting “hello liar” and goes wrong from there as he takes the pres up high into the atmosphere, burns LIAR into his forehead and drops him into the waiting arms of one of The American’s former team-mates and current US administration’s super-attack dogs known as Enola Gay.
From here it’s a super powered political thriller that riffs off many accepted conspiracy theory archetypes of the shadow government controlling political power through money. Indeed, there’s a two page interlude where the President ponders his shadowy masters’ orders to start an uneccesary war whilst watching a show-reel of Kennedy’s assasination.
(“… and the the president realises that the video is already playing, which is odd. He recognises John F Kennedy and realises he’s watching a video of Dallas 1963. And he sits there as, over and over on a loop, the head of President Kennedy is blown open for all the world to see. Over and over. Over and over. And then it hits him… He’s not in charge”.)
Seems that Williams is a fan of Bill Hicks as well. Anyway, the government decides to strike back, sending the American’s former team-mates against him. There is fighting, there is nasty political stuff. And then……..
And that’s the biggest problem with Class War. It’s never been properly finished. The six issues here form a satisfying complete story of sorts, but one that ends just as it’s really getting going, with so many dangling threads and unanswered questions that there’s definitely meant to be another story following this one. Except there never was. And with this much time elapsed, with the writer and first artist both having gone on to bigger things I very much doubt we’ll ever see the proper end of the story. And that’s a shame, because this first book is a pretty good first act.
So, it’s a lovely hardcover presentation, it’s got exactly the sort of big, splashy art to suit the subject of incredibly powerful superbeings trying to act as revolutionaries. The first half is by Trevor Hairsine, who does big, splashy Bryan Hitch style art very well. Scheduling and delays meant Hairsine was unavailable for the second half and Travel Foreman was drafted in. He does the hardest of jobs, fitting a style to match the previous artists, remarkably well and the entire book works artistically, with only a moment in the middle where you can even notice the join.
The writing is strong, particularly for a writer new to comics at the time, although it does occasionally veer into the purple, descriptive prose so fashionable at the time. Rob Williams even finds time to play around with a bit of comedy as well – but then again writing someone as stupid as that President was always going to be easy. The ideas are good, the execution’s good and the whole thing works as an enjoyable first part, even if it feels a little like reliving a lot of previous trodden ground, from Bill Hicks to Alan Moore, New Statesman to Ellis’ widescreen reinvention of the superhero comic. But the biggest stumbling block to my enjoyment is that moment in the last few pages when you realise that there’s no way this story should finish when you close the thing. If ever we get to see the entire story, it may well rank as a great example of one particularly good period in superhero comics. As it is it’s just a very enjoyable, very well presented fragment. And as long as you know that going in, you should find much to enjoy here.