Best Foot Forward features outstanding comics that create an amazing, memorable, and impactful first issue.
Written By: Kwanza Osajyefo
Art By: Jamal Igle
Published: October 5, 2016 by Black Mask Studios
There’s a lot of things that can be said about comics, most of it is great. Some of it however, well, let’s just say it can be rather bad. One of the most discussed, and controversial, topics in the industry gravitates around diversity. There’s a severe vacancy in mainstream comics when it comes to representing the world in which we live. I have my theories as to why that is, most of which revolves around the founding of comics as a multi-billion dollar industry. Some like to argue that the prominent straight, white, male audience controls everything. The argument continues by stating that until their money dries up we won’t see anything in the form of a big push to represent anyone else. It is for this very reason that I love small press and indie comics. Where the larger publications struggle to break away from their roots, publishers such as Black Mask Studios rises to the occasion and knocks out a book like Black, by Kwanza Osajyefo and Jamal Igle.
Now, before I get started I want to make clear why I’ve chosen to write about this book today. Some might think that I’ve chosen Black because this book challenges the standard set by the Big 2. Others might accuse me of pandering. The fact is, I chose this book for two reasons. The first, and this will always be the reason why I choose to write about any book, is that it is an amazing series. The characters are deep, intriguing, and filled with emotion. The story is clever and interesting. The world in which everything is set feels real, and easily draws in the reader. I won’t write about a book or series that doesn’t meet those qualifications. As a comic, Black is superb.
With that said, the other reason I am choosing to highlight this book is because of its diversity. Why? Because it has chosen the harder, more difficult path. In the comic world, straight white guys coming to save…well…everyone…sells. Just go look at the top 100 lists for sales each month. You can throw a dart at that list without hitting a white guy. So, when I see a book that has chosen to represent another culture…not as a downplayed side character who serves the main hero, but as the main focus, I feel it needs to be spotlighted and discussed.
For some, the very fact that I would include this book because of it’s diversity demeans what I write about. To that I point back to my first, and greatest qualification. The comic has to be great. I don’t care about a comic that sucks, even if it is filled with every culture, sub-culture, and possible culture in the world. Culture doesn’t make a comic good, in fact, I could argue that by choosing to represent any other culture as the focus that book has to be better than anything of its mainstream counterpart…and even when it is, it will probably only do half as well. That’s why I’m talking about this book. That’s why I’ve chosen to broadcast to all of you, Black is an amazing comic, AND…not because of, but AND, it’s not about some white guy.
So what is Black about? Well, Black follows the story of a young black man named Kareem Jenkins who has one of the weirdest days anyone could ever have. After surviving being shot by the police, waking up in the hospital, then being chased by the cops and some monster of a human being, our young man learns that he is far more special than he could’ve ever believed. It turns out young Mr. Jenkins has manifested super human abilities…abilities that only manifest themselves in black people.
While that’s the premise, what I’ll break down first is how this story plays out. From the very first pages we get this very real sense of the world. We aren’t in some make believe place, off in another dimension. This looks like New York, maybe Los Angeles, but in either case, this story is grounded in our world. Next, and this is where the fantastical side of the story comes in, one of the police is clearly not a normal man. This dude is huge, with sort of a Solomon Grundy type vibe, without the mental deficiency. This guy is clear minded with one purpose, he wants to capture…and possibly kill…Kareem.
Through this conflict we are introduced to a squad of super powered individuals, and their leader who definitely has a Morpheus from the Matrix feel going on. There’s no blue pill/red pill moment, but he drops some serious pressure on Kareem, in one of the more tense moments in the book. Basically it boils down to Kareem choosing to go with this guy, or be captured by monster man.
Kareem chooses wisely, and this thrusts us into the basics of the book wherein we’re given some scientific explanation as to these powers, and the information that only black people can manifest superpowers.
As always I leave spoilers out, but this book gets the menacing factor cranked to maximum by the end, and it left me with a major desire for the next issue…which I’ve read, and this story just gets better.
The last thing I’ll mention is the art work, which is just superb. The entire thin is done in black and white with gray-scale tones, and that alone gives it such a emotion that you’re drawn into it nearly immediately. The other side is simply how amazing the artwork throughout this book. The action sequences seem to fly by, then when things slow down the panels and page turns lead you perfectly into the moment. The characters are expressive, the camera angles are varied giving this entire thing a very cinematic feel.
This is just one of those books that more people need to be reading. It needs to be seen that creators who break away from the norm, and chose to represent other cultures, also have something great to contribute to the industry. In my opinion, this is better than most of what I’m reading from larger publishers. This book was dynamic, interesting, clever, and thought provoking. The idea is interesting, and the conflict between Kareem and some unknown forces is building into something great.
As I said from the beginning, this book is great. It’s great, not because of the culture it represents, and not because it showcases diversity. It’s great because it is a damn good series. All of those other factors just enhance what is already there, and as for me, this book is on my pull, and I encourage everyone to give it try.