This past October i was fortunate enough to check out New York Comic Con for the first time with two of my good friends. It was an awesome time and honestly far exceeded my expectations. All i can really say about the experience was that it was way crazier then i expected and the end of the day left me fatigued and stoked that i went. Next year i will definitely be better prepared for the madness that ensues when you put thousands of fan boys/girls in the same room. While walking around, this graphic novel caught my eye. It’s written by Tyler Chin-Tanner and Wendy Chin-Tanner, and is called American Terrorist. Unfortunately, i just got around to checking it out after being backlogged on my readings for the past few months. Boy am i sad i didn’t check this out sooner, because this book rules.
American Terrorist is a story about a journalist named Owen Graham. Graham finds himself following a band of militant activists called the “Earth Liberation Commandos”. The ELC’s current mission; to destroy an urban area under construction in the Phoenix Arizona mountain preserve. Their intention is take down the great urban sprawl, which they feel is spreading like a disease, and to restore this land to it’s originally pure and natural state. Many of Graham’s stories end up on his blog, where this alternative form of media has created a buzz around him and has attracted many followers of his news stories. This attention has also caught the eye of NSA agent (Todd Martin), who’s on a country-wide manhunt to question Graham about his ties and potential involvement with the Eco-Terrorist organization. The story also follows the lives of three regular people turned activists by the events that unfold. Michael Clark is a lawyer and friend of Owens, Hannah is a bi-polar school teachers, and Shannon is an ex-scientist.
A strange chain of events occurs, leading Owen and Shannon to bump into Hannah, after she had accidently caused a terrorist bomb threat in the lobby of her health insurance company for manically complaining about her medication not being covered under her plan. Owen is then confronted by the NSA agent who had been following him for months, only to find himself in a fist fight with him, resulting in Owen accidently murdering the agent with a caligraphy pen.
Owen becomes United States enemy number one, his only safe contact to reach out to, his lawyer friend Michael Clark, who also ends up becoming an accomplice to this new band of terrorists. After being on the run for some time, Owen comes to the realization that in order to have social change one must act on their beliefs instead of writing about them. He is tired of bureaucracy and the United States “broken system” which allows corporate giants to commit murder and the lower classes of society to be exploited by those in power. He decides to take matters in his own hands, rather then waiting for someone else to do something. Utilizing the media as one part of starting a revolution, the four neo-terrorists decide to use Owen’s blog to record their terrorist activities. One such situation brings them to bomb a smoke stack in Owens home town. Further reading leads you to find that Owens brother died of “respiratory complications”, when he was 8 years old. The close proximity of the plant, and the fumes emitted by the plant exceeded toxicity levels allowed by the clean air act, which likely led to Owens brothers respiratory problems and ultimately his death.
The plot thickens as Owen and his friends team back up with the militant group ELC again to perform more terrorist activites across the United States, all the while filming their exploits and gaining a large online following. The NSA stay one step behind, attempting to track them by any means necessary (cell phones, computers, surveillance). The outlaws then find themselves at a completely self sustained “Eco Community”, where the entire community is run on wind, solar, and water power. The resident grow all their own food and live in harmony with each other and the earth. They are left alone to live in their own community outside of normal society. All hell breaks loose once the NSA catches wind of it and decides to attack them full force. Their are many casualties. Owen and company get a real life taste of what it is to be a revolutionary and the casualties of war that result from such levels of violent political activism. After their escape, the terrorists social change reaches a crescendo, with people rallying in the streets of New York City, this would be the revolution they were looking for. At the end of the day, the group found that they could bring about social change by taking back the media for the people, and by believing in themselves and the power of change, could start a movement for which they would go down in history.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in politics, activism, or just in need of something refreshing and different. I think this book is important for its modern relevance, especially because of the recent occupy wall street movement, which was virtually spread throughout the United States via social media outlets. This book paints a realistic portrait of what can happen when individuals come together, fight for what they believe in, and take control of their government.