The story centers around Sam, an obviously distressed homeless man, wandering the streets of an unnamed city, at first speaking mostly in odd quotes and sound bites. As he wanders, he has disturbing visions of events in American history (dealing with Indian Wars, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and others). Throughout his wanderings, he occasionally encounters a woman named Bea, and has conversations with Britannia.
Eventually he comes to the remains of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, where he sees Bea once more, now recognizing her as Columbia. He has further encounters with Britannia, Marianne and the Russian Bear, before he confronts a dark, corrupt, overtly capitalist shadow version of himself. He eventually defeats this figure, by accepting all its blows, recognizing that he's made mistakes, and learning from them.
Towards the end of the tale he thinks to himself: "It's a strange and frightening thing — to see yourself at your worst."
In the end we see him again as a homeless man, but instead of wildly hallucinating, he's now chipper and optimistic, ready to face the future.
The book was heavily influenced by Howard Zinn's work, A People's History of the United States. The central theme of the story indicates that the people of the United States must advance by reaffirming essential principles of liberty and justice, by honestly confronting the mistakes of their country's past, and by working to prevent similar mistakes in the future.
The comics were nominated for an Eisner Award.