It is sad that decades after the Civil Rights movement, the African-American community still struggles to be held to the same standards and respect of their white counterparts. Hell, our president is the son of a native Kenyan, yet has to speak out on a regular basis on tragic shootings, often with black victims. There is no better time to release a comic book called “Black” because it sheds light on the issues and adds another element of interest: What if the only people who had superpowers were black? Would they become heroes and change the public opinion on blacks as a whole? Or would a handful of villains justify the claims of bigots everywhere?
Actually, from what I can tell from the comic, neither because the knowledge of a racially-exclusive genetic gift is too dangerous to leave to chance. When Kareem Jenkins is mistakenly identified as a suspect in a robbery and shot multiple times by trigger-happy police officers, he was thought to be dead. However, he wakes up in the ambulance and breaks free, running at high-speed and dodging traffic before encountering an ambassador of the group protecting blacks with powers, ironically named Project. At their unusual headquarters, he learns why black people are the only ones emerging with powers and joins the cause to protect their secret from getting out. Kareem’s attack by police also yields an unfortunate consequence that may lead to the outing of heroes.
When this comic was announced, there was a massive online discussion on Reddit, both defending the comic and condemning it, having not even read the comic before creating a defensive stance on the issue. Even the writer Kwanza Osajyefo got involved, telling people who their arguments were not what he intended and explaining his work. However, after reading this, some of the concerns are legitimate. The writing contains many common stereotypes, such as young blacks in basketball attire committing crimes and the main character expressing particular interest in the beautiful white scientist, not to mention a scene where an elderly black lady has Kareem snap peas on a porch. The excessive violence against black youth by police is clearly expressed, but the ambassador states it is a cover for the real enemies of the Project. Kareem seems to accept their invitation to help incredibly fast, just because they fight for a minority of a minority, without considering the impact on his family, education, or life.
This comic is published by Black Mask in black & white, entitled “Black”. I know this is mostly coincidence, but doesn’t it seem like the emphasis is kind of overkill? Granted, many indie comics are in B&W due to budget and production, but would’ve loved to see this with some color. This would highlight skin tones of our main characters and the graphic nature of the more bloody scenes. That’s my only complaint about the art though, because everything else is pretty great.
I am not sure whether this comic is being produced to unite people or divide them, but the internet outrage seems to point toward the latter, and that’s a real shame. By solidifying the “us versus them” argument, I think the writer is more aligned with Magneto than Professor X, if you know what I mean. The comic is a very interesting concept that raises many questions about our society, but there are plenty of ways this could be improved, in my opinion.
A Missed Opportunity, 2 out of 5 Stars
(W) Kwanza Osajyefo (A) Jamal Igle (CA) Khary Randolph, Ashley A. Woods
Publisher: Black Mask Studios