Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: BLACK [AF]: America's Sweetheart

BLACKMASK STUDIO – @blackmaskstudio @BLACKsuprppowrs

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Kwanza Osajyefo – @kwanzer
DESIGNER: Tim Smith 3
ART: Jennifer Johnson
LETTERS: Dave Sharpe
COVER: Sho Murase
ISBN: 978-1-62875-191-8; paperback (Tuesday, February 13, 2018)
Diamond Distributors code: SEP171271 (in comic book shops Wednesday, January 31, 2018)
80pp, Color, $9.99 U.S.


Black [AF]: America's Sweetheart is a 2018, full-color, original graphic novel.  It is set in the world of Black (now known as Black [AF]), the 2016-2017 six-issue miniseries created by writer Kwanza Osajyefo and artist-designer Tim Smith 3.  In the world of Black, only Black people have super-powers.  Black [AF]: America's Sweetheart is written by Osajyefo; drawn and colored by Jennifer Johnson; and lettered by Dave Sharpe.

Black [AF]: America's Sweetheart introduces Eli Franklin, a 15-year-old African-American girl adopted into a white family that lives on a ranch in Helena, Montana.  When she is a small child, Eli discovers that she has abilities that other people, including other children, do not have.  After he discovers Eli's powers, her father, a high-ranking government and White House official, tries to keep Eli's power secret.

However, once Eli becomes a public figure, her father manages Eli as a superhero, named “Good Girl,” who does good things to help people.  Good Girl is effectively a public relations stunt to tamper the fear of white people.  White people are angry because only black people have super-powers, and, in their fear, believe that all black people have or will have powers.  Eli is happy to do her part to make people less fearful, but someone with a connection to Eli's mysterious past is determined to put an end to Eli's mission.  The story also features a guest appearance by “X” of the original Black miniseries.

In a world that fears and hates them, what if only black people had super-powers?  That is a bold and crazy premise; that is a bold and crazy and ballsy premise from a group of African-America comic book creators, especially when one considers that much of the American comic book marketplace caters to older white males.  The six-issue Black miniseries was refreshingly confrontational, and it was unapologetic in its political and social themes and commentary that came from an African-America and Black American perspective.

Black [AF]: America's Sweetheart is less confrontational, but absolutely does not shy away from the original comic's politics.  It is just a bit clever about the way those politics are presented.  It is beautifully drawn and colored in a clean style that is similar to the graphics used in kids' graphic novels.  However, the fear-of-a-black-planet theme resonates throughout this original graphic novel (OGN).  White people in America are still afraid of super-powered black people, but the focus of Black [AF]: America's Sweetheart is Eli Franklin's quest to find her place in a society that fears her.  The story is not as much about a search for identity, which is what her adversary wants – to make Eli understand who and what she really is or who and what she was meant to be.

Eli's quest is played out in a massive, battle of super-powers that takes up about half this OGN's story, but that battle allows Osajyefo space to play out messages and themes involving the oppression of African-Americans and Black people, in general, by a society that wants to simultaneously enslave them and to exploit their powers and abilities.  What he means is white people making black people chattel slaves again – using black slave labor for the white oppressor's gain.

So, on the surface, Black [AF]: America's Sweetheart is about a teenage Black superhero, the first black person to put on a costume and use her powers as if she were a comic book superhero.  It is a superhero graphic novel for teenagers.  Just beneath the surface, however, Black [AF]: America's Sweetheart returns to the themes and motifs of the Black miniseries.  It is like hiding medicine inside candy in order the trick the kid into taking the medicine he or she needs.  Bravo, Mr. Osajyefo and Ms. Johnson.  We are ready for a second spoonful of medicine.

9 out of 10


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

The text is copyright © 2018 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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