Writer: Kwanza Osajyefo
Art: Tim Smith III, Jamal Igle (Pencils), Robin Riggs (Inks), Sarah Stern (Colors), Dave Sharpe (Cover)
Cover: Khary Randolph
Editor: Sarah Litt
Publisher: Black Mask
Summary from COMIXOLOGY: “IT’S HERE! The comic that blazed through Kickstarter during Black History Month 2016. In a world that already hates and fears them — what if only Black people had superpowers. After miraculously surviving being gunned down by police, a young man learns that he is part of the biggest lie in history. Now he must decide whether it’s safer to keep it a secret or if the truth will set him free.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened up this comic. Being a 30something, middle-class white guy who lives in a southern suburb, I’d already resolved myself to the idea that I probably wasn’t going to relate to the story. I do believe, however, that not relating to a story should never keep you from enjoying or experiencing it. I’ve never been stranded alone on Mars, and forced to farm potatoes by using my own excrement, but that sure as s**t didn’t stop me from loving The Martian.
Black #1 just jumps right into the story. Initially being told through the eyes of a beat cop who witnesses a group of her fellow officers unjustifiably shooting down a trio of young black men, who just so happen to match the generic description of some robbery suspects, and then eventually transitions to a first person view of our emerging main protagonist, Kareem Jenkins.
The pacing of this first issue is great for an introduction. We see Kareem meet a team of other people like him who can offer him answers and an opportunity to explore his newfound powers. There’s also several characters introduced that I’m sure we’ll be getting to know more about as the plot continues to unfold. This first issue cliffhangers very subtly, and just enough to intrigue you without divulging anything major. I wasn’t very familiar with Kwanza Osajyefo before reading this, I understand he did a lot of editorial work for Marvel and DC, but I’m very impressed with how he’s started the story he’s telling and I look forward to seeing how it plays out.
Now, I believe that if you looked back enough, you could find documentation of me on the record saying that I do not like black & white comics. Hell, I’m pretty sure I just said it one of our recent podcasts. However… I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m eating crow on this one. Black is a black & white series and It never bothered me even once. This art team is like the comic art version of the Power Rangers, or the Captain Planet Planeteers. By their powers combined, this artwork is precise and perfectly balanced. Great line-work, great shading, and some absolutely incredible panels. The one in particular, where you see Kareem and his friends getting shot by the cops is especially intense. It’s made even more intense by the thought that, while he did, it’s possible Kareem’s friends didn’t come back to life. (Also, just take a look at the cover for issue #2 and try not to be emotionally affected. I dare you. If you aren’t then you’re soulless.)
Comics are an excellent tool for escaping the real world and being able to, if only for a little while, hide from the deluge of negativity. At some point though, the escape has to be acknowledged as something more than that. Just telling us that everything is OK and there’s nothing to be afraid of isn’t enough because that isn’t true. There are plenty of “escape from reality” comics out there for you to choose from, but, while it does utilize fantasy to do so, Black chooses displays what is the painful reality for a huge portion of the American population. It isn’t “negative” to acknowledge that reality. Truth isn’t negative or positive. It is simply truth, plain and simple.
The potential social/political impact of Black is undeniable. “What if only black people had superpowers.” In a world where there are reports of black men, women, and children being killed by police almost daily, that premise is a pursuit to incite hope. I wondered why this story was just coming out now, but then I realized that this is an unfortunate result of our current state of society. Giving the black community a character like Kareem that they can relate to who survived being shot by police shouldn’t be necessary. But it is. We live in a time where it’s crucial that people take a stand against injustice, while at the same time inspiring faith. Black #1 sets out on a path to do just that. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but this first issue instills confidence that it can be done.
You can pick up a copy of Black #1 at your local shop today (unless they’re all sold out), or you can get it digitally by clicking the Comixology link at the top of the page!
Music Pairing –
I decided to go with two artists here because both of them felt right, depending on what era of hip-hop you’re more likely to relate to. For the new school I feel like Vic Mensa’s new album, “There’s A Lot Going On”, is a good example of raw honesty and focusing frustration at what’s going on in our world today. For the old school I picked Mos Def’s “Black on Both Sides”. A great representation of strengthening and empowering black culture in a world that either fears or hijacks it.