Recently in the United States of America a highly contested presidential election led to quite possibly the most polarizing president in the history of our nation. President Richard Hughes has risen to power on an anti-immigration platform, promising to protect the country and making people feel safe. Many think he’s the best thing to ever happen to their country. Others fear they’re witnessing the beginning of the end of their nation. Either way he’s here to stay and one of his first acts as president is a big one: He uses the power of his office combined with his party’s control over the House of Representatives, Senate and Supreme Court to pass a law making vigilantism legal. The Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act builds on our long history of vigilantism to push us toward a new tomorrow.
Let’s take a step back in time to 1942, during the height of World War II and not long after the United States entered the war. I’m sure you know the general details of the war; Germany invaded much of Europe and began executing Jewish citizens, causing death on an inhuman scale. Eventually, the allies overpowered the Third Reich and won the war. The notable difference that is often overlooked is that a group of very special individuals were absolutely crucial in winning the war for the Allied Forces. There were many involved, but five in particular made such an impact that they’ve been immortalized. They rose up in different places, but eventually came together and proved instrumental in the Allied victory.
If you’re thinking it’s impossible for five ordinary people to swing a war of that scale on their own, in most cases you’re probably right. However, these weren’t ordinary men and women. If nothing else, the inspiration they provided by doing what seemed impossible moved their countrymen and women, as well as the rest of the world, to do more. It made them believe they could do anything and it put the fear of God in their enemies, as they never knew when one of them might be lurking nearby. In the end they took on missions no ordinary soldier would have been capable of.
It all started with Liberté, a fighter in the French resistance. She became something of a legend after managing to assassinate three SS officers in their beds in the same night. She was known to be deadly with a knife and people were always saying she was the fastest person they’d ever seen, though it’s hard to know how much of that is fact and how much is legend.
She took to wearing the French flag on her helmet after leaving France, which would seem like a bad idea if one is trying to be stealthy. For her that was never the idea. While stealth was always a tool in her arsenal, Liberté wanted to inspire her countrymen and women; to make them believe they could fight back against those who had invaded their homeland. She was fighting an ideological war more than a physical one, making people believe that victory was still possible. Rumors abound that Liberté was no ordinary woman, but nothing could ever be proven. Some believe she didn’t even exist; that she was just a tool of propaganda.
One person who wasn’t normal in the strictest sense was Lone: a middle aged woman who lived in Germany when the war started. Some will contend the German people never knew the extent of the atrocities committed in their name throughout the war. Lone certainly figured it out quickly enough and she did everything she could to stop it. Eventually she came to realize there was no place for her in Germany and she made her escape.
When Lone said something, people listened. She could tell complete strangers to do incredibly dangerous things, and they would gladly comply. She used this to help save many people in Germany, and she later used it to get herself out of the country.
The third of these special individuals was Chrome: A soldier who volunteered for service before he could be drafted. While Chrome liked the idea of serving his country and was generally quite selfless, his primary motivation to join the fight was to find an escape from his gambling debts before they caught up to him. Though he didn’t have any special abilities, his superior officers said he was quite possibly the best shot they’d ever seen; an elite marksman with a complete lack of fear. He would rush onto the field of battle at a moment’s notice. Chrome got his start sneaking out of the trenches at night to look for wounded soldiers who hadn’t made it back. He acted quickly and moved without detection.
Since his only real concern was someone on his side recognizing and reporting him, he took to wearing a blue mask that covered most of his face while letting his bald head show through. When times were rough, he thought of his two daughters back home and how much he wanted to see them again.
Perhaps the strangest of the group was Armor. Her name was given merely as a description, not as some badge of honor. She wore a custom suit of battle armor designed to look vaguely medieval, but shaved down everywhere she safely could to lessen the weight. Despite this, it was incredibly heavy and no one believed she was a woman. She always claimed to be but no one believed a woman could haul that thing around. Her large stature made her stand out in many places, but her fearlessness in battle made her respected by all. She originally joined the war effort as a combat medic. Over time she began sneaking into battle with her armor. As a child, her father trained her in combat, and she never felt more at home than on the battlefield.
Finally there’s Serenity; A Japanese-American man whose family was relocated into one of the US Internment Camps during the war. As a way out of the camp, he volunteered for military service, distinguishing himself with bravery on a number of occasions. Trained from a young age in the art of Bujutsu, he used his martial arts background to become a phenomenal soldier. His name came from his belief that he would have to maintain an overwhelming sense of serenity at all times to survive the challenges he was sure to face.
Serenity was recruited during the early years of the war to serve as a spy behind the Pacific Front, his superiors deciding his talents were wasted in Europe. Having been born in the US and having spent his entire life there, his Japanese was learned primarily from older relatives and he always worried an error in dialect or slang would be the death of him. Even with his teachers in the Army there was still a constant fear of giving up some important detail which would lead to arrest or even death. Even so, Serenity always believed his calm manner and skills in close combat would give him the opportunity to escape.
After the war ended these five individuals mostly went their separate ways. Their destinies were in different places and each of them had to live their life. Along with many other special soldiers during the war, they returned home and used their skills in a variety of ways. Some chose a life of vigilantism, using their abilities to help or harm the populace, while others wanted only to return to a normal life and forget the atrocities of war. Even so, they had inspired the world and there was no putting that genie back in it’s bottle.
Over the years, many imitators rose up from every corner of the globe, but eventually their numbers dwindled. Many cities chose to look the other way as they broke laws in service of protecting people, but many did not, with a number of those trying to help ending up dead or in jail. After what some of them had done to criminals jail was not the best place to find themselves. There’s nothing more likely to make you hang it up than seeing a friend gunned down in the streets, or arrested and ending up with a shiv between their ribs in the prison shower.
By the late 90s, the rise of the internet seemed to signal the final chapter of the days of heroes. The World Wide Web was a big problem for those who needed to operate in secrecy, with Social Media in particular giving people a database they could comb through to compare pictures of unknown vigilantes and figure out who they were. Online communities grew for this exact purpose. Those who never bothered to hide their identities saw people easily locate their homes and those of their family. One well-known vigilante saw his greatest enemy walk into his mother’s nursing home and shoot her in the face. After catching the criminal and murdering him with his bare hands, he ended up on the run from the law. He’s managed to stay hidden away for almost twenty years, with no one having any clue what might have become of him.
The attacks of September 11th, 2001 didn’t help matters. It didn’t have anything to do with the vigilante fighters on either side in the traditional sense. The closest any came to being involved was trying to help people escape and get clear of the twin towers. The reduction of rights that came as a result had a major impact on vigilantism, with the PATRIOT Act providing an ease of access to private information. The government approached a number of vigilantes with an ultimatum: join a government task force and work for them, or face time in federal prison.
Some ran while others joined the government. Most retired before they could be found out. Very few new vigilantes were entering the field during this time, and with many retiring, dying or ending up in prison, it wasn’t long before there were less than fifty vigilantes regularly operating in the US. The few that remained were mostly small potatoes the government hadn’t bothered to pursue.
This brings us back to the election of President Hughes. He spent his entire campaign talking about how dangerous things have gotten on our streets and how we’re the least safe we’ve ever been. At some point a reporter asked him about vigilantes and heroes and how few there are left. Always the populist, he saw major potential in a call back to a type of hero that was most popular shortly after World War II. Hughes immediately grabbed onto this and made it a major plank of his campaign. To hear him tell it, we were safe until the government cracked down too hard and chased away the people who wanted to protect us. He promised to pass a new law that would not only decriminalize vigilantism, but would actually deputize them if they wanted to be truly legitimate. He argued that the American people should always have the right to protect themselves from those who might cause them harm, by whatever means they should deem necessary.
The Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act, VMUS for short, was one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law upon Hughes’ election. It made being a vigilante legal overnight, and authorized them to use their power by any means necessary to protect the public. There are almost no rules or regulations to follow; if you believe the public is in imminent danger you’re authorized to do whatever you feel you need to. All active vigilantes are required to register with the government but the penalty for failing to do so is simply being made to register. Since the laws are so vague there’s no need to worry about action being taken against them. It’s all at the discretion of the vigilante, and true legal punishment is unlikely unless one were to go on a killing spree.
People quickly find that those who are the most eager to sign up are supporters of President Hughes. There are suddenly thousands of authorized men and women, armed to the teeth, patrolling borders and hanging out in the neighborhoods where minorities live.
Actual crime rose significantly as a result, but since action committed by a vigilante is no longer technically a crime and is merely logged and not reported, the public doesn’t necessarily see it that way. That the people being hurt are largely from groups these men and women don’t much care for leads people to discount the issue. Despite this public opinion is decidedly split on the act and on how effective it is.
Hughes supporters aren’t the only ones taking the call to arms. Many men and women love the idea of being able to protect people and being authorized to do so, while others see the actions of Hughes’ vigilantes and feel they need to stand against them. The reasons are varied, but a lot of great men and women have answered the call. A young man named Zach Thomas lives alone in a run down apartment in New York City. You’d never know it to look at him, but he’s the heir to a multi-billion dollar business empire. He inherited the business years ago but so far has shown little interest in actually running it. Upon the death of his parents, he informed the Board of Directors at Thomas Computing that he was going away for awhile, giving them an address to send $10,000.00 every month. He told them to do whatever they felt was best with the rest of his fortune and disappeared. None of them have seen him since, but every month the money is delivered, meaning Zach is certainly still alive and relatively well; physically at least. You can get to know him in Hitbox #1, out now.
Meanwhile in Detroit, Kalenia Wallace is an up-and-coming lawyer making waves by taking and winning a variety of local civil rights cases; mostly against the local and state governments. She’s preparing for the biggest case of her career: a suit against the state government challenging the constitutionality of the Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act. If she gets her way, none can be sure if the citizens of the US will be safer, but life will sure be a lot less interesting. Though she’s against VMUS, there’s a part of her that can’t help but be intrigued by what it must be like to be a vigilante, thinking that if she ever got caught she could call it research. Dynamo #1 will be your first chance to meet Kalenia. It releases December 15th.
Out in Napa Valley Jia Crawford isn’t the heiress to a billion dollar fortune but she is set to inherit her family’s fine winery; though she hopes not anytime soon. A recent college graduate, she hangs around Napa trying to figure out what to do with her life. Family history’s about to come back into her life and change everything. Trying to figure out what to do with her own life is hard enough while staying out from under her mom and dad’s feet. At least there’s always a fine vintage around. Serenity #1 is out now.
Ryaan Asfour’s family immigrated to America from Iraq when he was only two years old. A naturalized citizen, he’s always thought of himself as a red-blooded, apple pie loving American; if only other people would think of him the same way. He hasn’t taken too much abuse, but it seems he doesn’t go a day without seeing a friend or neighbor harassed on his way home. This isn’t supposed to be how life is in his part of Chicago. His family picked the Bridgeview neighborhood because there were a lot of other Arab families, though so far that hasn’t been enough to stop the harassment. Even his little sisters who are as American as it gets have been on the receiving end of it recently. Ryaan becomes more and more fed up by the day. Someone has to do something, and it might as well be him. Rebel Rebel #1 is out now.
The VMUS Act is now the law of the land and with that passage the people of our country will have to reckon with it’s impact. Only time will tell whether we’re entering a new age of prosperity and safety or if our fundamental liberties are being tarnished.