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‘Black, Vol. 1’ (review)

Written by Kwanza Osajyefo
Designed by Tim Smith 3
Art by Jamal Igle
Cover by Khary Randolph
Published by Black Mask Studios
ISBN-13: 978-1628751864
Released November 14, 2017 | $19.99

 

Crowdfunded by Kickstarter in February 2016, BLACK asks the question “what if only black people had superpowers?”

We find the answer through the story of Kareem Jenkins, a young black man who finds out he is among the gifted when he is gunned down by police, but lives. He finds his place with The Project, a global network of specialists and volunteers that help train people like himself to fight those that would exploit others’ powers. Kareem soon learns that the work is not always fun, and the lines are blurry between justice and power plays.

But when the time comes to align with a side, will he make the right choice?

Or is there yet another way to survive as a superpowered black man in the world?

BLACK does not hesitate to delve into real life subjects and storylines that affect today’s black community.

From medical testing and corrupt policing to what it takes to be “down for the movement”, writer Kwanza Osajyefo is adept at taking inspiration from the struggles of actual life and creating ways to explore their effect from Kareem’s point of view. It is one thing to know there are crooked cops. It is another to see the story played out across the page with Jamal Igle’s dynamic drawings. With the only color appearing in the red touches of Khary Randolph’s arresting front page images (Issue #4’s topical homage to Donkey Kong is brilliant), Igle exaggerates to get the emotional punch needed for scenes like a field of white supremacists attempting to enact their twisted version of justice on a black man.

Throughout the arc it is clear that BLACK is not a relief from the world; rather it is a gentle reframing through the lens of the supernatural.

The common characters are there:  Venture serves as a Morpheus type, guiding the way for Kareem as he learns more about the project and is trained in managing his abilities and emotions. Officer Waters is our regular Joe (or in this case, Josephine) that believes in the law but wakes up to the shadow agencies controlling the major players as the incredibly unique potential associated with Kareem becomes more of a powder keg.

There’s a fantastic explanation of the Project in the second to last issue but I will not spoil it here. But know that watching this all unfold will make anyone critical of the news for quite a while.

The story is engaging for it’s uniqueness and frank addressing of racial topics. It is not surprising that this title went through two rounds on Kickstarter to produce the first issue and then for further work on the trade. T

his is far more straightforward than the X-Men’s sly allegory to a disadvantaged minority class, experiencing prejudice at the hands of the masses they are so often serving. It is refreshing to read such a multi-layered take on current events that still manages to have enough fight scenes and superpowers (the last issue is jam-packed, thanks to one of the Kickstarter efforts) to keep it in the realm of comic mayhem. BLACK will not be for everyone, but for those that take their comics with biting racial commentary, this trade will be well-received.

 

 

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