America Occupies, Canada Resists in One of the Worst Comics Ever
‘The United States of North America’ has a cool world and a terrible story
I live in Texas and hear a lot of conspiracy theories. The one about a North American Union is popular. Radio demagogues such as Alex Jones and the recent Jade Helm military exercises keep it alive and the public afraid.
The entire continent of North America — so the tale goes — will soon be one giant country. Washington will force Mexico and Canada, at the point of a double-bladed economic spear, to join their land masses with the United States and create a super country.
This merging will make it easier for the powers that be — the Illuminati, the Bilderberg group, take your pick — to control humanity and impose authoritarian rule. The NAU leaders will put checkpoints on highways, require GPS trackers in all newborns, eliminate personal firearms and outlaw dissent.
It’s a fanciful tale, easily traded over drinks at a bar and rife for exploitation as an adventure comic or action-oriented T.V. series. That’s just what the authors of the comic book The United States of North America aimed to do.
Too bad, then, that the book is terrible. The plot — such as it its — is juvenile, the characters one note, the art mediocre and the protagonist insulting.
The United States of North America follows Canadian freedom fighters as they battle the oppressive American occupation while protecting the wife of one of their founders.
After a violent introduction to the main characters, the authors deploy the trite cliche of a classroom lecture to do some world-building. A high school teacher explains the world of USNA to her students, and by extension, the reader.
After the pledge of allegiance, she quizzes the students on how the supra-national union came into being. “Open access to natural resources and the free flow of labor helped us compete with the European, Asian and South American economic unions,” one student answers.
“It was agreed that a shared defense would be less costly and more efficient, especially in meeting the growing threat in Central America,” another student explains.
Classroom-style info dumps are tacky. They’re the second most hamfisted way to explain the background in fiction. Only opening a story with news coverage — like the reboots of RoboCop or Dawn of the Dead — is worse.
The authors never expand on this Central American threat. I assume it was drug cartels in Mexico and Latin America run amok. The comic’s villain — a diminutive authoritarian named Conrad — made his name by violently suppressing an insurgency in Central America.
Back in class, a young man named Carter Wheeler speaks up. “The central ruling council is made up of the top military, political and business leaders on the continent,” he explains before questioning the legitimacy of the military’s role in governing.
The teacher reprimands him for challenging authority. Later, we learn Carter’s father and brother were both freedom fighters and that SHADO — the ruling government’s secret police — have recently murdered both.
To cope with the loss, Chris’ mother Carol packs up the car, takes a leave of absence from her job as a lawyer and hits the road. She and Chris leave Toronto to stay with her sister in Calgary for a few days.
But the resistance movement hijacks her car on the highway, and the rest of the book deals with Carol watching events unfold as she learns about the dissident movement her husband helped create.
USNA has a certain basic-cable charm. It’s easy to imagine a show like this airing on TNT or TBS after a police procedural and before a show about a sassy lawyer. The world is interesting and the action sequences come frequently enough — just enough to keep audiences engaged around all the talking.
And there’s a lot of talking. Not dialogue. Talking. As Carol and her son move from set-piece to set-piece, the dissidents info-dump all over them. The characters deliver political tirades, background info and the plot in long, boring monologues. The book is 75 percent tell and 25 percent show.
When the characters talk to rather than at each other, it’s stilted and weird. Later in the book, Carol is alone in a trailer. She’s just gotten out of the shower when Emmett, a dissident leader walks in.
“I’m sorry … I’ll go,” he says with downcast eyes.
“Oh no … Emmett. I’d like you to stay,” she replies. “The doc says I’ll be okay. I need to rest … of course.”
“That’s good news, Carol.”
“I, uh, guess it isn’t going way, is it? It’s all so strange. You can understand why I’m resisting. You’ve been at this a long time.”
“Resistance is futile,” he says. He closes the distance between them and kisses her.
“17 minutes later,” a text box on the next page reads. It’s oddly specific. The lovers lie next to each other post-coitus.
“Emmett, can I ask you about …,” she starts.
“What Big Train said?” he finishes her thought.
“Is it true? I’m on a SHADO hit list?”
This exchange is no less hammy and nonsensical in the context of the book. It also highlights one of the major problems with the book — its protagonist Carol Wheeler.
All of USNA’s characters are flat and boring. Conrad the villain is short, mean and dresses like M. Bison from the Street Fighter video games. His storm troopers wear black helmets and tactical gear. They look like Cobra commandos — the ever-failing baddies from G.I. Joe.
The freedom fighters are interchangeable, distinguished only by surface level character traits. Cowboy is a cowboy. He wears a 10-gallon hat and rides horses. Jean Claude is a French Canadian who wears a skull cap and speaks French. Driver is a man from Newfoundland. He’s good at driving. And so it goes.
Carol Wheeler — the supposed protagonist— is a special kind of awful. The cover of the comic depicts her in a torn blouse and dress, wielding an impressive rifle that smokes as if freshly shot. The book opens with Wheeler explaining that she never wanted to become a terrorist. She never wanted to bury a son and go on the run.
After such a setup, I thought I was about to read a kick-ass story about a woman who takes revenge on the oppressive government that killed her husband and son.
This isn’t the case. Wheeler is ignorant of the world’s politics. She spends most of the book either depressed, wounded or asleep in the back of various cars.
She follows the freedom fighters and listens to their arguments and fires back, “I don’t believe this,” or, “What happened to our country?”
That Wheeler would be so ignorant and stupid is unbelievable. Her dead husband and dead son were both resistance fighters. Her husband helped found the movement. Carol knows nothing about their lives outside the home? It’s a ridiculous conceit.
Also, she’s a lawyer — a public defender. The ruling council of USNA converted most prisons into work farms. Big agriculture companies use prisoners as slave labor to drive up their profits.
The authors expect their audience to believe that a public defender would have no idea about the corrupt practices of the government. Any lawyer, or any fan of legal dramas, will tell you this is beyond belief.
More insulting is Carol’s complete lack of agency. She spends the book listening, complaining or following the other characters. Carol does kill the villainous Conrad in the end, but only after her lover has roughed him up for several pages. The conflict neatly resolved, she drops the gun and appears only in the background of the denouement.
The United States of North America is a bad comic — one of the worst I’ve ever read. The writing is terrible and the art poorly imitates Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead.
Which is sad because the idea of nationalist Canadians resisting a one-world government is an enticing one. There are decent ideas here. One inventive passage depicts the state-run lottery wherein citizens earn tickets every time they report their neighbors to the authorities.
But the bad art and worse prose wash away any clever ideas. The book and a postcard tucked inside of my copy hint at a sequel. Like the conspiracy theorists here in Texas worrying about a North American Union, I hope it never comes to pass.