“Remember when we all hated on 2016 online?”, this comic begins. “Called it a trash fire? And then on 2017? 2018, the elections? People don’t even hate on 2022. We’re catatonic.”
So what do we know? Days of Hate is taking place in 2022. Already our attitudes about the recent past fade into the red shift of quaint disbelief – ah, can it be that it was all so simple then! Things got even worse with the 2018 elections, apparently. So even though there are still houses and jobs and cars and all that normcore stuff, there’s also a guerrilla war being fought by two sides of armed radicals. One side you already know, because they’re on the TV every day talking about the Second Amendment.
The other side is something else, a militant left sufficiently radicalized as to begin striking back with deadly efficiency. Someone threw some molotov cocktails into a warehouse party full of queer kids in Los Angeles, so someone else plants a bomb at a road house filled with neo-Nazis. Inevitable logic.
Against this backdrop we meet both members of a recently dissolved marriage, two women who split after a political argument that resulted in an altercation that led to a miscarriage. One of these women is contacted by the government to help locate the other, who just happens to be bombing roadhouses in LA. She wants revenge.
The comic is colored by Jordie Bellaire. Although I can find Bellaire’s approach to be heavy-handed, in this instance I think there are more sequences where the approach works than not. There is a silent driving sequence late in the first issue that Bellaire carries with streaks of dirty asphalt yellow and headlight red, using color to highlight the kineticism in Žeželj’s lines. Žeželj’s layouts sometimes appear intentionally disordered – the effect of so many sequences of small panels with extreme close ups of faces or conversations is to make the book seem crowded and claustrophobic. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – a few sequences are simply hard to parse, and sometimes with a colorist like Bellaire that can come down to a question of whether or not you, the reader, personal find a particular color combinations effective. There’s a sequence towards the second half of the book colored in contrasting shades of pepto pink and snot green – an unsettling combination to sequence an unsettling scene where a neo-Nazi takes a bullet between the eyes. So while I can’t say it doesn’t work, I can’t say it’s a particularly pleasant effect, either.
I keep circling around like a falcon in the proverbial gyre to try and get my arms around this comic. I spend all day watching the news and reading the news and listening to the news and discussing the news – everything is bad, yes, but more importantly things feel very desperate. There’s something in the air, I don’t know whether it’s even good or bad, but – if you’re trapped on the inside here in Fortress America it feels like we’re stuck in the middle reel. We’ve had tons of exposition. Every conflict is established. Everything is always happening and nothing changes. Tension keeps ratcheting ever skyward on every side and nothing changes. It’s the strangest feeling. We’re stuck in the Dragonball-Z of governmental crises.
Except for the fact that that’s not true, it’s constantly changing, mutating under our feet, both for the worse and for the better. Life in 2018 is weird. The news isn’t even always completely bad. But it’s still bad a lot. There’s an exchange in the book I puzzled over where one of the characters lays out the future regime’s justification for establishing concentration camps for undesirables across the country. People have been disappearing:
It’s just work camps, pure and simple. We had Guantanamo under . . . much more “liberal” regimes. Same goes for the internment camps you have mentioned. And now we round up the elements of society which are rather hard to control and riot and steal and are here illegally and do not respect the rules and laws of this country or try to undermine them and so we give them work and let them change their minds over time and . . . you come at me with concentration camps?
Days of Hate is set in the far-flung future daze of 2022 but it’s about right here and right now. This is recognizable: this is a country where the money controls the people who control the government and the people who control the government also control a swiftly radicalizing far-right that is already carrying out significant domestic terror attacks. We already have disappearances, we already have camps. There’s really nothing in this comic that isn’t already happening, with the exception of leftist bombings. Unless you believe that antifa is a terrorist organization and not a political affiliation, in which case it’s safe to say you’re probably not reading Image’s Days of Hate #1 by Aleš Kot and Danijel Žeželj, and I’d be seriously surprised – impressed, even! – if you made it almost this far into a review of said comic written by A Notable Queer on The Comics Journal Dot Com.
So what’s the problem . . . I have struggled for days to articulate precisely why the comic unsettled me, disquieted me. And then it finally occurred to me, in the same moment I realized that the bombing sequence in this book reminded me quite clearly of a similar sequence in The Battle of Algiers: the book is trying to say something about the current moment but the lead time on comic book production means that it’s still responding to the world of six months ago. The world is just too weird and protean right now for any political art with such a massive lead to do anything but fade into the red shift of quaint disbelief. The disquiet was more – surprise at the failure of the comic to really show me anything at all I wasn’t already seeing around me every day, even in the mainstream media. It left me shrugging, which is really not what you want a comic book called Days of Hate to do.
I can’t blame Kot for wanting to do something of the moment, but this already seems familiar. This is the nightmare of 2017, already very real but also already yesterday’s news. I don’t need to go to 2022 to see this this, I can turn on the TV. We’re all just waiting in collective terror to see what new kind of weird bullshit we got bubbling up from the nation’s collective id. We already know it can get a lot worse than anything in the pages of this comic. 2018 has been eating Tide Pods and the nightmares are already positively fetid.
But people are getting pissed off about it, and right now I don’t feel particularly catatonic. I feel pissed and everyone I know is pissed too. We got shit to do. 2017 is dead and gone and can therefore sort itself out much as I believe Days of Hate will eventually sort itself out over its subsequent eleven issues: without me.