Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Kents

There's a reason why John Ostrander is considered one of comics' great writers. His runs on The Spectre and Suicide Squad are nigh legendary. They are examples of some of the best of what comics can offer. To that list of Ostrander's great works I would add a lesser known series: 1997's twelve part saga of Truth, Justice, & the American West.

I'm speaking of The Kents.

The Kents isn't like most books Ostrander's written. And it's not like most of the books DC puts out, either. Maybe it's the historian in me, but I found The Kents' exploration of the most tumultuous time in American history to be something very special.

As the name implies The Kents chronicles a pivotal period in the history of the most important family in the DCU. That, in and of itself, is pretty remarkable. The ethos of the Kent family shaped Kal-El of Krypton into Superman. And that ethos was forged on the plains of "Bleeding Kansas," into the Civil War, and beyond.

Silas Kent is a wealthy Boston printer. But he gives up his family, his security, and ultimately his life for a cause so much greater than himself. A staunch abolitionist, Silas Kent and his sons fight to free millions from the chains of slavery. But he falls to the bullet of a coward and one son -- Nathaniel Kent -- must take up the cause.

And Nathaniel -- who bears a striking similarity to another famous Kent -- struggles through the horrors of the Civil War. In doing so, he suffers heartbreak, betrayal, and discovers that the adage "brother against brother" is all too real.

But despite all the odds, Nathaniel Kent changes the face of Kansas -- and America -- for the better. He lays the groundwork for the moral center that will guide generations of Kents to come.

Some have said that the only one to hold the line until the Golden Age of Heroes was Jonah Hex. But when there was Jonah Hex, there were also The Kents. Without heat vision or super strength, they fought against the greatest evil of American history. They fought for Truth, Justice, and a Better American Way. They fought and won. And like so many real extraordinary ordinary heroes, they changed the world.

3 Comments:

At 12:28 PM, Blogger simon said...

The Kents did hold the line, and moreover, unlike Jonah Hex, they fought for the right side. It may just be me, but my stomach turns more furiously at the notion of the heroic Confederate Jonah Hex than the notion of the honorable Rittmaster Hans von Hammer.

 
At 1:33 AM, Blogger Tom Foss said...

I remember when the Kents came out that I really wanted to buy it, but for one reason or another, I never did. Last year I picked up the trade, and I quite enjoyed it. One of the best things about the post-Crisis Superman mythos is how much attention and backstory it has given to the Kents.

I think the only problem with it (and this is a nitpick) is that Jonah Hex appears before he's supposed to be scarred, if I remember my old west DCU continuity right. Of course, that's explained away easily enough through the trickiness of memory and whatnot.

Overall, a vastly underrated series, and an underexplored part of the Superman mythos.

 
At 2:03 PM, Blogger Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

Okay, I'm not sure when Jonah appears in The Kents, but he was scarred in 1866.

Simon, you need to learn a little bit more about Jonah. After the Emancipation Proclamation, Jonah decided that he was fighting on the wrong side and surrendered to the Union forces himself. He has quite often stated that "the war is over" whenever makes mention of him still siding with the Confederacy (even though he continues to run around in the Rebel Grays)

Guess I'll have to pick up The Kents to properly understand what you're referring to.

 

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