"Hass #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Approbation Comics
Written by B. Alex Thompson
Illustrated by Federico Santagati
Colored by Russell Vincent Yu
2015, 36 Pages
Comic released on December 16th, 2015
While I haven't had a life of privilege, I can't deny that my life is easier because I'm a white guy. It's easy to gloss over the racism people encounter within this country, as I don't encounter them every day. I'm not saying that to discount the seriousness of the issue. Racism is something that is still very real despite the progress we've made as a society. Hass is a book that reminds you of that. Villains don't need to wear a mask or have super powers. Sometimes they can be a normal person that just has the upper hand.
Although Hass builds up to a tense psychological thriller, it starts out as an innocent romance. Josh Jones rolls onto campus for the first day of classes at a university in Texas. He instantly falls in love with Maggie Stewart and turns up the charm in an effort to woo her. This is done almost to an annoying and creepy level. We get a mix of his internal monologue where he's plotting out his next moves and his actual actions. There are a few moments where he's pushing the boundaries, especially for someone that he's only just met, but as a whole, he comes through as rather genuine.
Josh and Maggie are damaged. They've both been through some family issues in the past and they're working through them in different ways. You get the sense through their brief time together that they would help one another. This young love blossoms fast, really only over the course of a day, which is a bit unrealistic but still plausible given the college setting. While I was initially put off by Josh, he slowly won me over, just as he does with Maggie.
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Much of this has to do with Federico Santagati's artwork. He portrays Josh in this way that even when he's mad, he still comes across as a fun-loving guy. There's a glimmer of mischief in his eyes and a knowing smile across his face, like he knows more than he lets on and certainly more than everyone else in the room. This is what makes the actions in the tail end of the issue so hard to take in.
Maggie has a similar style. You can see why Josh falls for her so quickly. She's the kind of girl that you'd wish you could hang out with, but are afraid to actually talk to. She carries herself well, however there's something deep brewing behind those eyes, like she's done a lot of living in her young life.
We're given some not-so-subtle reminders of modern day racism in the aftermath of a concert the two attend. There's one guy who drops the n-word left and right, using it as an insult. Josh restrains himself, although he has every right to knock this guy out for being a total douche.
Later on, the actual terror comes in and in a very realistic way. It's something that you wouldn't be surprised to hear about on the news. That's what makes this whole thing scary. It's not that far off from reality. It's not much of a spoiler, as the first page of the comic has Josh being beaten down by a group of white guys. Their final act is something that's so despicably heinous. They don't kill Josh, but he might as well wish for death. It's the kind of thing that could create a super villain. It's tough to read in that regard, as it's a reminder of the lengths that people can go to follow their misguided and unfounded beliefs.
Hass is pitched as Romeo & Juliet meets American History X, which is a pretty apt way of describing it. Creator B. Alex Thompson pulls you in with relatable characters and just when you think they're going to have a nice happy ending, he pulls the rug out from under you and changes everything. Aliens don't fly in and the dead don't rise. Instead, the monsters in Hass are real and just as terrifying. They're capable of true evil.