Black by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, and Jamal Igle
Rating: 3/5 stars
#52Challenge: A book that got bad reviews
Disclosure: I backed this Kickstarter, but as always seek to keep my reviews as neutral as possible.
The concept of Black is fascinating from a cultural perspective. What if there were superheroes, but they were only black people? And this was a secret kept from the general population? How does this twist narratives in our society around policing? Especially around the fact that cops already treat black people, especially black men, as if they have superpowers or are somehow more resistant to pain.
I love, love that this book is put together by an all-black creator team. It should be. This is one of the reasons I supported this Kickstarter, besides being a fan of Igle’s art on other books I’d read. I’m not surprised Black Mask snapped this project up after it was successful.
Igle’s art, particularly, the shading is incredible. Black being entirely black and white serves his art well. I often think bringing the sorts of dimension that he does here, where the characters jump off the page, is harder in black and white than full color. His technique seems to be a water-based ink drawing style. (But I haven’t read up on how he works.)
My one negative art note is that almost all the women here have hourglass figures, and we certainly see a few “pose” in ways to show off their butts and boobs.
I wish I’d enjoyed the story as much as I did the art. The pace of this story is incredibly fast. For instance, in the first issue, Kareem gets shot, dies (excellent heart monitor art choice), and then comes to. There was no time wasted. No moments to spare to leave you hanging. It works in the first couple issues.
However, as the book progresses, this action movie-style plotting overwhelms the book. None of the characters are allowed to breath. Kareem can’t figure out whom he should trust, in part, because he doesn’t have the luxury to think. At first, it seems like commentary on how racism is omnipresent and you never know when it will hit, but then it felt like a pacing choice as if there was worry about slowing down and readers leaving the book behind.
This book doesn’t let up — from a would-be lynching, to prison breakouts, to villains trying to make deals or assassinations.
The pseudo-science of how people get powers in this universe is no more ridiculous than any other superhero power happenings. I’m glad they put in a reason, and I’m glad they didn’t try to make it any more “realistic” than other superhero books. And of course, there’s an evil organization run by white people because white supremacy is the ultimate villain in this book.
But if this is Kareem’s superhero origin story, I didn’t feel like I heard enough from him. His action’s spoke, but there was simply no time for reflection. I found myself enjoying Ingle’s art more than I like the writing on this book. The world building wasn’t there, and we ended up with too many characters to care about any.
In many ways, Black reminded me of trying to jump into a well-established superhero book without knowing the world and without the help of Wikipedia. I am, at the end of the day, a sucker for great characters, and Black made me shrug my shoulders, even if it spoke to issues I care about and tried to do something different with a genre I love.