The Fourth of July is traditionally a time for parades, cookouts, trips to the beach, and other outdoor group activities. Each year, Americans celebrate their freedom and independence with hot dogs, fireworks, cheap beer, and blowout department store sales. However, this is not for everyone, and that’s understandable! If you’re looking for help getting stoked about this holiday weekend, an alternative way to celebrate the holiday, or just need to relax after a long day in the sun, here’s a list of comics that will leave you feeling utterly American.

10. SOUTHERN BASTARDS (VOL. 1) (Jason Aaron, Jason Latour) 

SouthernDescribed by writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour as a “Southern fried crime comic,” SOUTHERN BASTARDS gives a very complex view of the American South, a region often ignored by modern media. Through villain Coach Euless Boss, Aaron explores American desires such as creating a better future for oneself, as well as anxieties that grow the closer one gets to this goal, such as the fear of falling short. Though this is a very football-centric book, it doesn’t have to be your area of expertise for SOUTHERN BASTARDS to resonate with you. While superhero comics tend to pay homage to great cities, the New Yorks and Chicagos of their respective universes, SOUTHERN BASTARDS is the song of the small town. This Fourth of July, crack open a cold one, and immerse yourself in SOUTHERN BASTARD’s world of murder, ambition, and football.

 

9. GETTYSBURG DISTRESS (Matt Fraction, Andy MacDonald, Nick Filardi)

2009-02-13-gettysburgdistressThe only thing keeping Matt Fraction, Andy MacDonald, and Nick Filardi’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN President’s Day Special so low on this list is its length. GETTYSBURG DISTRESS is a six-page Spider-Man/Captain America team-up that originated as a webcomic, but was included in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN trade paperback, ELECTION DAY. The story, short as it is, takes us all the way from a bank heist by a Z-list Abraham Lincoln-themed villain to the Gettysburg Address, which we learn Captain America attended. For all GETTYSBURG DISTRESS’s comedic value, the intermingling monologues of Captain America and President Lincoln are incredibly sobering, and frankly, will make any American proud to be one.

 

8. HOLY TERROR (Frank Miller)

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Frank Miller’s HOLY TERROR is a perfect example of patriotism gone too far. Originally announced as a Batman story that followed Batman defending Gotham City from a terrorist attack by Al-Qaeda, deep in its production, Miller announced that it was no longer a DC book, and would feature a new protagonist called ‘The Fixer,’ who ends up being nothing more than a less-developed, less-engaging facsimile of the caped crusader. Upon reading HOLY TERROR, I can tell you this much: though created by one of the greatest and most influential comic creators to ever grace the Earth, HOLY TERROR is a cautionary tale against nationalism at best, and revenge-porn at its worst. Miller portrays Al-Qaeda as true devout Muslims, and this is simply not true. HOLY TERROR is blatantly anti-Muslim, and completely out of character for Miller, it is uninterested in any sort of nuance. Amidst the current presidential election in America, it is important to remember that many approaches to nationalism can manifest as problems. HOLY TERROR is one of these problems. However, this doesn’t mean we should discount this book. Please. Read it. There are Americans who think this way. Do not be one of them.

 

7. WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT TRUTH, JUSTICE, & THE AMERICAN WAY? (Action Comics #775) (Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, Lee Bermejo)

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Written in response to Wildstorm Comics’ series, THE AUTHORITY, a series that delved into the moral responsibilities held by individuals with the ability to overthrow entire governments. WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT TRUTH, JUSTICE, & THE AMERICAN WAY? rejected the principles outlined by the intentionally incendiary THE AUTHORITY. The story features Superman, whose popularity has taken a hit with the rise of the Elite, a team of antiheroes who brutally murder their enemies, often harming civilians in the process. Superman agrees to a televised battle with the Elite, but refuses to stoop down to their level. This comic shows the true nature of what it means to be a hero. Superman’s determination to show the world what it could be, if violence were to be rejected as a means of control. The Man of Steel’s constant defense of truth, justice, and the American way would get anyone into a patriotic mood this Fourth of July.

6. THE RATTLER (Jason McNamara, Greg Hinkle)

img_2308For those of you who’ve read THE RATTLER (recently re-printed by Image Comics), the horror/mystery masterpiece from the creative team of Jason McNamara (writer) and Greg Hinkle (illustrator), its inclusion on this list might be confusing. THE RATTLER is the story of victim’s rights activist and non-fiction crime author Stephen Thorn, ten years after the kidnapping of his fiancée, Catherine. While reconnecting with his estranged father on his deathbed, Thorn hears his missing fiancée’s voice coming from the mouth of his dead father. The tale that follows is a twisted amalgam of Criminal Minds, a slasher flick, and a Nicholas Sparks novel gone wrong. THE RATTLER will break your heart just a bit more with each bloody panel. It finds its place on this list through its representation of the solely American phenomenon that is the serial killer. God bless America.

 

5. VENOM (Rick Remender, Tony Moore, Tom Fowler)

11470711In Remender’s forty-two issue run, Venom is portrayed not as an entirely mindless beast bent on revenge, but as a hero. The symbiote’s new host, Flash Thompson is a decorated war hero who just happened to have lost his legs. Flash is offered the Venom suit by the military in what seems like a win-win, he gets use of his legs and continue to serve, and the military gets one of its best officers back. In this run, Thompson quickly learns the burden that the Venom symbiote can have on one’s being. Remender shows us through Flash Thompson what it truly means to sacrifice oneself for one’s country. With team-ups from other war vets, such as the Red Hulk, this run is sure to get you in the spirit to celebrate.

READ: For some deeper insight into Venom, check out this analysis!

4. THE AMERICAN TPB (Mark Verheiden, Chris Warner, Grant Miehm, and Doug Braithwaite)

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While some would discount THE AMERICAN as Darkhorse’s answer to Captain America, I can assure you that this is not the case. After picking up a few single issues from my neighborhood comic book store’s single bin, I realized that this is much larger than the hero himself. THE AMERICAN follows journalist Dennis Hough as he covers a story about The American, the hero of an entire nation since the 1950s. Conspiracies and cracks in the infallible hero are revealed amidst Hough’s quest for truth, with genuinely human experiences like alcoholism and relationship drama acting as speed bumps along the way. This comic is so utterly American that it hurts. The TPB collects the entire series (all eight issues, the special, a four issue mini-series, and a handful of short stories), making it an incredibly accessible and economic continuity to insert yourself into. With a creative team comprised of screenwriter Mark Verheiden (THE MASK, SMALLVILLE) on words, and Chris Warner, Grant Miehm, Doug Braithwaite, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, and Jim Lee all providing art, why haven’t you picked this book up yet?

 

3. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583, SPIDEY MEETS THE PRESIDENT (Zeb Wells, Todd Nauck)

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This issue was released close to the inauguration of President Obama, and is best described as a celebration of his election rather than a coherent Spider-Man storyline. Peter Parker, conveniently at the inauguration as a photographer loses his credentials, only to be given a second set by Senator John McCain. This issue follows the Chameleon, posing as the President-Elect Obama and the lengths Obama and Biden have to go to stop the impostor. Writer Zeb Wells and artist Todd Nauck provide This issue is fun, that’s the bottom line. Obama fist bumps Spider-Man, enough said.

READ: For more Spider-Man, check out our review of CIVIL WAR II: AMAZING SPIDER MAN #1!

2. THE VISION (VOL 1.) (Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire)

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I will vehemently defend my position that the new VISION run is one of the most characteristically American comic books of all time, in addition to simply being one of the best comic books of all time. Period. Despite being the series’ titular character, everyone’s favorite synthezoid, the Vision is present very little in this comic. While still active with the Avengers, the Vision acts as liaison to the White House, informing government officials of Avengers business. He does all of this while living as unassuming existence with his new family in a quiet suburb of Washington D.C. Vision created a family of synthezoids for himself to assuage the loneliness, it would seem. This book is driven by a seemingly omniscient narrator who provides a chillingly blunt account of the horrors to come. Unsupervised by their father, wife Virginia and children Vin and Viv demonstrate the dramatic underside to suburban life, rife with secrets, school bullies, and the stress of being different in an environment that demands conformity.

 

1. CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (Jack Kirby)

2677627-captainamericacomics01Honestly, what other book could take the top spot? This book couldn’t be more patriotic if Uncle Sam was in the background waving sparklers and eating apple pie. Kirby’s iconic introduction of Captain America cemented the hero in our heads and our hearts. With a cover like this one, how could he not? During a time of uncertainty and turmoil, Kirby gave America a hero to rally behind, and one who can casually fell Hitler with a single blow. Captain America could fill every slot on this list and more, what with his constant defense of freedom and justice, even when the American government does not stand behind him. If you can’t get your hands on this relic, (published first in 1941!) get your hands on any book that features Cap, and salute the super soldier for all his years of service.

 

READ: Feeling patriotic?  For more CAPTAIN AMERICA check out this essential reading list!

 

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