Days of Hate 1: Discussion

by Ryan Desaulniers and Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Fom ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Ryan D:  The Capulets and Montagues. The Hatfields and the McCoys. The Shiite and the Sunni. These famous rivalries span generations, with their common point being that the reason which the fighting began has long since ceased to matter. The conflict now revolves around the most recent slight or atrocity perpetrated by the other side. In the aptly named Days of Hate, writer Ales Kot and artist Danijel Zezelj bring us a speculative world where our current political divide is seen played out to one natural conclusion in which the catalyst has been lost in four long years of partisan turmoil and war.

The creative team accomplishes the world-building swiftly and deftly, starting by opening in the burnt-out husk of a building, a victim of a fire-bombing at the hands of a group which leaves the calling sign of the swastika. In what seems like a very procedural opening of two detectives surveying the scene of a crime, we learn of the state of America by the very fact that the two investigators on scene can’t narrow down this atrocity to one hate group easily. They casually mention a pattern cropping up: a Jewish site of worship attacked, a fire at Skid Row, and this attack on a queer shindig. Now the audience has an idea of what’s going on.

But it isn’t until the interrogation scene that things slide into clear view. Huian Xing, a Chinese-American with a penchant for falconry, finds herself detained by the government, isolated in an austere white room that carries with it the threat of every interrogation scene in pop culture. I confess to be intrigued by Peter Freeman, the man in charge of her interrogation. A white man in a nice suit, sporting white teeth and a glint in his eye, Freeman comes across as self-satisfied, grating, intelligent, and — as the Head Investigator of the Special National Police Unit for the Matters of Domestic Terrorism (really rolls off the tongue) — quite dangerous. Zezelj carries these scenes between Freeman and Xing away from boring talking heads by utilizing a cadre of techniques: silhouette to establish the physical relationship between the two when the scene begins, methodical panel composition as Freeman dominates the discussion, then a mix of point of view shots and extreme close-ups with layered, staccato panels as the expectations become subverted and Xing willingly sides with her captor, dominating the page and the encounter.

I found these scenes to be gripping, and Kot and Zezelj established an incredible amount of tone and world here.

It’s in the interrogation scene that a crucial concept of this issue becomes plain: that of “radicalization.” On one side, we see the Alt-Right (some might say “Nazi”) group at their favorite eatery/bar, toasting by saying “America First” under an emblem of a bald eagle carrying assault rifles in its claws, shrouded in the Stars and Stripes. The other side comes with the far-Left using familiar tactics of domestic terrorism. Even though my gut wants to scream “Dead Nazi!” like I’m playing the Indiana Jones drinking game, Kot makes sure that none of the deaths in this first issue feel gratifying, no matter which side is suffering it.

Because its all skewed. That’s what radicalization does; it distorts someone’s world view so much that they are posessed to commit inhuman acts against whatever they deem as “other”. The cities that Zezelj depicts mirror this distortion. When we first see Los Angeles, it looks vagrant, burdened, and limping. Zezelj achieves this using his thick, charcoal-esque lines and heavy shading, and employing some sort of rectilinear or perspective visual bias. When a bomb is set off towards the end of the issue, Zezelj gives us this:

Here’s where colorist Jordie Bellaire comes in crucially. While the city-scape provided by Zezelj already tells us something, it’s Bellaire’s use of cool blues to accentuate the whites and reds which reminds us that the explosion is just one of many lights shining in this city, with each holding as much potential to be a beacon of simmering or explosive hate as the last.

That’s the landscape in the first issue of Days of Hate 1, and it’s a complicated one. Patrick, there’s a lot going on in here. Do you have any thoughts on how the issue opened, or insight on how the creative team took so many large concepts and wove them all into one issue?

Patrick: I think the most impressive thing about Days of Hate 1  is just how profoundly ugly it is. I had mentioned to Drew after reading the first couple pages that I had a really hard time with Aditya Bidikar’s lettering. The text itself is small, and the truncated space between letters gives every speech balloon and overly crowded feeling. Bidikar’s balloons are also clearly hand-drawn, giving them a lumpy uneven shape. This is occasionally an extremely talky script from Kot, meaning these balloons sometimes take up huge amounts of page real estate.

There’s also something about the way the hand-drawn balloons play against Bellaire’s dynamic use of color that makes these noxious clouds of hateful words seem all the more intrusive. Lest it sound like I’m ragging on Bidikar’s choices, this is maybe the most effective way to underline what Kot and Zezelj are expressing in this issue. Ryan sorta mentioned it above, but it’s not even like we see anyone acting in expressly political or ideological ways in this issue. Sure, there are acts of violence against the opposing group, but it seems like any real consideration for how either side believes society or the government is muted in favor of expressing dominance over the other group. That calls back directly to the name of the series — this is about strong ideological differences between groups, it’s about the hate that spews out of the rhetoric these groups use against each other.

I think the issue itself reveals one of the problems that creates this sort of distorted non-communication. While the investigators are wrapping up their walkthrough of the crime scene in Los Angeles, Amanda catches a glimpse of Xing’s falcon out of the corner of her eye. The bird takes flight and then literally flies across the country.

The falcon finds purchase in upstate New York, having flown over the “fly-over states.” Days of Hate sees its drama playing out in coastal states, so even the more rural or suburban settings are somewhere in New York or the San Fernando Valley. The desolate image I posted above is the only look we get at the 3000 miles of America between Los Angeles and New York City. One scarecrow standing impotently at the edge of a pond, ominous black clouds swallow an otherwise empty sky. This takes the idea of the forgotten middle of the country and make it literal. I’m not sure what the implication is — if there is any — for the actual reality of the series. Has everyone abandoned the messy middle of the country for the expressly aligned coastal cities? Did something happen to the people that lived out here. And DEAR GOD, what happened to the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin? Or are Kot and Zezelj simply illustrating how easily entire swaths of the country are left out of the national dialogue.

Like I said, it’s all very ugly. But, y’know, that’s the point.


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4 comments on “Days of Hate 1: Discussion

  1. I didn’t mention this in the piece, but here’s another thing that adds to that over all ugliness: there’s no credits page. I had to do a little googling to find Bidikar’s first name. Like, all the last names are listed on the cover, and comixology provides the information in the “info” tab, but it’s not printed in the issue itself. Instead, where I’d expect a credit page, there’s a quote from fucking Steve Bannon. Oh, maybe that IS the credits page…

  2. There was a great article I read around the election that used analytics to examine the news, and came up with an important conclusion. There was a very clear right wing ecosystem divorced from the rest of mainstream, made up of Fox, Breitbart, InfoWars etc. But there wasn’t a similar left wing ecosystem. There were certainly far left sites, but they never split off from the mainstream media. There was ultimately the normal media, and the far right. Which is to say, the myth of there being ‘Both Sides’ is bullshit. Both sides weren’t equally bad.

    And I think that is an important truth to this issue. The Far-right faction is truly bad, a clear fascist state. But Kot realises that it would be fucking stupid to suggest that the left is just as bad. This isn’t going to pretend to follow some horseshoe theory bullshit when that is so unlike what it actually is. That’s why when we first see Amanda, she is investigating a far right act of terror, but when we first see Xing, she’s getting brought in by the fascist state. Or why you don’t have any equivalent to that Fake NEws conversation (which is a truly perfect representation of the messed up Kettle Logic Trumpism is built on ‘Fake News is fine because they used Fake News first. And anyway, our Fake NEws is actually true’). Instead, something subtler is happening. And I think the most important pages are those four pages of driving back to LA, ending in the two page spread you showed.

    Because while so much of this book is intentionally ugly, LA is depicted as beautiful. Largely because of Bellaire’s colours. It dazzles your senses, it looks liek heaven. In a brutal, ugly world, LA isn’t. THe only blemish is an explosion that has just happened.

    WHich is essential, as it frames Amanda as something more complex than representing how her faction is the extreme left to compare to the extreme right. They aren’t the same, and Amanda is actually the equivalent of antifa. And the thing about antifa is that antifa are the last resort. They are worrying and disturbing, because they exist to be there when there is no other choice than worrying and disturbing. The whole point of antifa and people like Amanda is that the last thing we want is to be using them. And that differentiation really makes Amanda compelling. She’s not the bad guy, but the real question is how much is she going to do to fight for something good. How much is she willing to lose? She’s willing to murder, but she also trying to mitigate causalities of the enemy.
    And of course, there is her relationship with Xing. Can reunification happen, if she continues down this path. Xing certainly isn’t happy where she is, knowing she’s just a powerless pawn in an oppressive state. But can they reconnect if Amanda is destroying herself every day inthe war. How much will the rise of the alt-right cost Amanda? Even if, by the end of this series, she somehow topples the alt-right, what will the cost of it be.

    And that’s the central question for these times. Is Trump survivable? Probably. There are a hell of a lot of scary things, but there is the hope of the mid terms, of Mueller. But even if America defeats the alt-right, what will the cost be? How many would have been hurt, or killed? How much suffering will have happened. When America wins against Trump, how wounded will it be? How hard will it be to fix the damage done to the civic institutions, to democratic norms and, most importantly, the very people who have suffered because of Trump.

    Days of Hate knows there is good and there is evil, but it also knows that the story is scarier than that. Because through people like Amanda, the good will be degraded, broken and hurt. What will winning mean, if America ends up like Amanda is now? What will winning mean if AMerica ends up like the path Amanda seems destined to go down? What sort of victory would that be? And if in the end, America ends up like Amanda, did America really win? Or, if what is good and decent has been so damaged, did ultimately hate win?

      • At the moment, the Right is much worse than the Left could reasonably be accused of. The ultimate example of this is the rise of the alt-right, and Charlottesville. One side were normal protesters, the other side carried Nazi imagery, screamed white supremacist slogans and murdered someone. The idea that there were good people on both sides is ludricous. The fact that people like Bannon, Miller and Gorka were (or still are) part of the White House is vile – Gorka is even connected to the actual Nazi Party.

        Meanwhile, regardless of your opinions on Trump’s policies, two things are indefendable. Firstly, the lack of response to Russia’s hacking of the election. It isn’t even about the collusion, because if Trump is innocent, that wouldn’t forgive his negligence in defending the US from future attacks. What Russia did was a act of war on both the US and the concept of democracy, and needs to be responded to. And Trump has refused to implement the sanctions that Congress passed that he legally must (and that’s ignoring how a senior staffer sabotaged months of research by throwing it out and replacing itnwith a list from Forbes of rich Russians).
        Secondly, Trump’s attack on the Justice Department and it’s Independence that is essential for a just nation. The Department of Justice cannot exist solely to do what Trump wants, but for the American People as a whole. A Justice Department that does what the President wants, instead of existing separate from the Executive, isn’t Justice. It must stand alone, so it can punish injustice where ever it is found, even the White House itself. Again, even if Trump is innocent, he should not seek to control the Justice Department. He should instead let the Department investigate him without threats, and provide a strong legal defence to prove his innocence. By attacking senior Justice Officials, all he does is threaten essential democratic underpinnings. A case shouldn’t be opened or closed merely because the President wishes it to.

        The Atlantic did a great article today, by two moderates who agree with many GOP policy decisions, called ‘Boycott the Republican Party’. It does a fantastic job of explaining why those two thighs I mentioned are so indefendable that they disqualify any pretense that ‘both sides are bad’. Because Democrats, for all their flaws, are nowhere close to those sins, and any attempt to equate the two is ludricous. Between that and the Nazis (an honest to god former leader of the American Nazi party is running unopposed in Illinois), the idea of equating the Left and the Right as ‘both bad’ is ludricous. There is a clear good guy and a clear bad guy.

        And that’s before we go into policies, where things get even more opinionated, but I would easily argue that the nearly every major GOP policy is horrid at the moment. Meanwhile, even Democrat policies that I disagree with can be reasonably debated

        And from the point of viewing this comic, if you are going to show one side as a fascist state that places people in ‘work camps’ and supports murdering Jews and LGBT people in fires, you can’t say the other side is just as bad. But any side opposed to ‘murder minorities’ can’t be the bad guys, which is why showing Amanda as someone doing horrible shit in response is the best approach. Opposing people pro killing gay people can only be a good thing. There is no other side here. How Amanda opposes them, that’s where the nuance comes in

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