Review by Ian Keogh
With immigration to the USA such a controversial topic in the early 21st century, and significant movements of people between nations unlikely to drop, Americatown is a timely graphic novel. It’s set not that far into the future, and the proposition supplied by writers Larry Cohen and Bradford Winters is what if it were US citizens seeking to enter other American countries as the USA has suffered a meltdown?
Their opening chapter is largely Owen Carpenter’s experience, a middle-aged man who arrives in Buenos Aires as an illegal immigrant before things begin to go wrong. He’s left in the Americatown ghetto knowing no-one and not sure who can be trusted, and with a city mayor very gung-ho on cracking down on illegal immigration. Cohen and Winters reverse arguments used by those against immigration into the USA, applying them to US citizens now desperate for better prospects, as they show Eric learning about how everyone wants money from him, even in the city he’s not safe, and how his options are limited.
It’s not a comfortable read, but it’s not intended to be, and Daniel Irizarri adds greatly to that with squalid locations, people who look worn down by the daily struggle and suitably sinister atmosphere. There’s something of Gilbert Hernandez about the way he defines the cast, but it’s subtle, and it’s his skill that makes Americatown more a drama about the people and less a standard action thriller.
Subtlety is also a strongpoint for Cohen and Winters. Their background is TV drama, so they’re used to hitting big character moments at specific points, and pay off almost all the way through. It’s right at the end that their dramatic instincts perhaps steer them wrong. Not every ending needs to be a cheerful ending, but this doesn’t pull together as the writers presumably intended, being too complicated. Where it succeeds is in being true to life, and so it can be presumed the primary intention was to reflect real lives. It’s to be hoped Americatown isn’t just preaching to the converted, that it at least falls into the hands of a few people who’ll take on board that we’re defined by humanity, not nationality. Either way it’s a solid drama and still worth your attention.