BlackAcre #1: American Dark Age

The mother of all gated communities is a privately-owned city state, and the rest of the country can suck it.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Black Acre #1

How will history look back on our near future? Not very kindly, if Duffy Bordreau & Wendell Cavalcanti's BlackAcre #1 is to be believed. The new Image Comic opens with a history lesson from the year 2202 which puts the downfall of American civilization into the academic context of zombies vs. pirates. This isn't a zombie or a pirate story, though – that's just the kind of neat hook a good professor might come up with to interest his students in a lecture called "Deconstructing The American Dark Age."

It seems that the fascination with zombies – ergo, the flash-fried instant apocalypse – distracted Americans from the real decay of their society, best embodied by the re-emergence of real-world piracy, the plundering of others amidst "a steady and prolonged grinding down of civilization… a decay born of the very friction produced daily in the tooth-and-nail struggles of men." Basically, while we sat around dreading the bomb, everything we built around us eroded enough that corporate raiders with the pirate mentality were able to consolidate power behind a consortium called ExCorp to build BlackAcre, "the mother of all gated communities – a self-sufficient city-state developed by ultra-wealthy businessmen, security contractors and political gurus."

It feels like that Ayn Randian philosophy – rich captains of industry and the like withdraw from the country, create their own society and cast the unworthy out into the wastelands of what was once thriving infrastructure and is now home to bickering religious tribes of illiterate bandits and impoverished people scrounging for food. The oligarchs have their own private army to keep the rabble at bay, and it's that conflict that BlackAcre #1 focuses on.

A soldier named Hull is nearing graduation from guard duty on The Wall in the northern Rocky Mountains, trying to decide his next career move, when Executor Terrence Sinclair recruits him for what Hull thinks is a search and rescue operation for a former comrade named Greene out dealing with "the barbarians." What he doesn't know is that his homing beacon for extraction once he finds Greene is actually a bomb.

So it's quite likely that Greene has not only gone native, but is doing enough out there that he's a problem for BlackAcre's continued longevity. Boudreau may have something else up his sleeve, but that seems like the direction he's going. It's a neat set-up, and I really like the contextualization as a history lecture to frame the state of American decay. I also like the idea of a post-apocalyptic setting that never actually had an apocalypse. Oligarchs were the agents of it, but it was the most gradual end of the world ever. Cavalcanti's art is pretty solid, too – or most of it is. There are a few panels where his face work starts to falter a bit as the issue wears on, but there are some striking emotional beats in the depiction of life on the outside.

BlackAcre #1 is a solid start. It remains to be seen if it'll manage to balance the gritty action with interesting social commentary, or if it'll become more of a standard common vs. wealth struggle. It's worth checking out.