Early in 2016 the Kickstarter for Black from creators Kwanza Osajyefo & Tim Smith 3 (A.K.A TS3) was smashing through targets & stretch goals with an impressive 2775 backers and it hit print this week through Black Mask Studios.
While it’s a fairly ordinary premise of ordinary people discovering their powers there’s a far more obvious & controversial element to the story that the synopsis itself manages to hit head on with the question “What if only black people had superpowers?” That alone will surely send some of the prejudiced bigots into over-drive but hopefully the majority of bomic book readers are a bit more level-headed & open to take in the story and judge it on it’s own merits.
Opening with Officer Ellen Waters being interviewed about a recent shooting we’re soon in flashback mode to see the reports of another crime attributed to three black teenagers and the cops move in as quick as you’d expect. Sooner than you can say “Black Lives Matter” there are bullets flying in the teenagers direction and if I’m honest, this seemed to hit home as something I’ve seen, heard, & read about too many times recently. The fact that something like this is so relatable is both a stark reality and a bold step to take from the creative team AND Black Mask Studios.
This soon becomes a story of the fantastic as one of the three victims, Kareem, seems to rise from the dead unharmed and is on the run form the authorities. Cue some help from a secret government group of similar individuals and we’re coasting in familiar superhero territory as Kareem discovers he’s not alone when it comes to superhuman abilities.
The controversy is raw and real from Black and while that won’t sit right with some of the head-strong bigots out there I can’t help but feel that it’s Kickstarter success and being picked up by Black Mask is vindication for the creative team that they are onto something with their creation. That’s not to say it’s perfect as some of those Superhero elements slip into the overly familiar and sometimes cliched components that seem to be impossible to escape and a slightly jarring “here’s the science bit” while the development of powers is explained. There’s still an honest heart at it’s core though that manages to shine through and the pace of the story keeps things moving passed these minor gripes I have.
Kareem is a worthy centre character and the broader cast may slip into those same cliched elements but as a whole the book has a strong momentum form the very beginning. Retelling the story from the perspective of the one good cop from the force takes the edge off the “them vs us” undercurrent which could otherwise have spoiled this opener and it does settle into it’s stride quickly. The sharp dialogue from Kwanza and art from Tim that just seems to ooze energy, combine to give this a fresh vibe that’s raw and powerful without being too in your face. This all results in an intriguing story that I’m glad I backed on Kickstarter and hope it gets a strong response now it’s hitting the more mainstream outlets as it’s got the feeling of a significant comic book of our time vibe about it. Kudos to Black Mask too for embracing another diverse story that they’ve added to their already impressive list of titles.