Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: BLACK #1

BLACK No. 1
BLACKMASK STUDIO

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Kwanza Osajyefo
DESIGNER: Tim Smith 3
ART: Jamal Igle with Steven Walker
INKS: Jamal Igle; Robin Riggs
TONES: Sarah Stern
LETTERS: Dave Sharpe
COVER: Khary Randolph
VARIANT COVER: Ashley A. Woods
2-Color, $3.99 U.S.

“Chapter One”

Black is a new comic book miniseries created by Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith 3.  This comic book was introduced to the public as a Kickstarter project seeking to earn $29,999, but ultimately earned almost $100,000.  Black is set in a world where only Black people have super-powers.

Black is written by Osajyefo and is drawn by Jamal Igle (pencils) and Robin Riggs (inks); toned by Sarah Stern; and lettered by Dave Sharpe.  Khary Randolph is the cover artist, and Steve Walker assists Igle on the interior art.

Black #1 opens with Officer Ellen Waters of the New York Police Department (NYPD) recounting a shocking incident.  She witnessed three young Black teenagers mistakenly misidentified as three perpetrators of an armed robbery.  They are subsequently shot down in a hail of bullets by White police officers.  Officer Waters witnesses one of the three, Kareem Jenkins, get up from his injuries as if he were never harmed.  What Waters does not realize is that the truth behind Jenkins miraculous survival is even more mind-blowing.

I remember the Kickstarter campaign for Black, and I was impressed by what the team behind it presented to the public.  I was shocked by how successful it was, as it reached its campaign goal in a short time before going on to raise about three times that goal.  Although I was impressed, I forgot about the campaign.  I only remembered after seeing a listing for Black #1 as a new release on the website for comic book distributor, Diamond Distributors.  I was fortunate enough to receive a PDF copy of Black #1 for review.

I have often thought about what it would be like to create a comic book set in a world in which only Black people had super-powers.  I am glad that Kwanza Osajyefo (the former editor of DC Comics' “webcomics” imprint, ZUDA) and Tim Smith 3 (who has worked for Marvel, DC Comics, and Archie Comics, among others) had the gall or the balls to create just such a comic book.

For some readers, the idea of a world in which only Black people have super-powers may be controversial or perhaps, a bridge-too-far, but for nearly three decades, the fictional worlds of American superhero comic books only imagined White men and a few White women with super-powers.  There were even pets and inanimate objects with super-powers before comic book characters of color gained powers.  Black's central conceit alone makes Black #1 a riveting, gripping read.

The other thing that makes this first issue so thrilling, without spoiling it, is that the focus is on the hunt for Kareem Jenkins.  Osajyefo pounds out a script that drags the readers along and makes them think that they are also imperiled.  Jamal Igle's quicksilver compositions visualize the story in lurid detail, especially in the sequence that goes from the explosive hail of bullets to the heart-stopping resurrection-like rise of Kareem.

Black, of course, is timely.  That is both fortunate and unfortunate.  The last decade in the United States has been troubling.  It began with the persecution and prosecution of the Black male teenagers known as the “Jena 6” and continues with the latest killings of unarmed Black males or shootings of Black males in general by law enforcement officials and armed White vigilantes.  Activism concerning justice and equality for African-Americans has exploded, with people of all skin colors and ethnicities joining the activism and protests.  That is fortunate.  It is unfortunate that young Black teenagers have had to die to force a movement that should have not slumbered to awaken again.

Still, out of these dark times, we may have, in Black, one of the few American comic books in a long time that means something important beyond the market and the medium.  Black #1 is not perfect, as some of it (so far) relies on a few tired tropes of superhero and science fiction storytelling.  Still, the first issue of Black is a great start.

A-
8 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"


The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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