Comics Twitter convinced me to bet on BLACK, the series about a world where only black people have superpowers. I wasn’t disappointed. Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, and the rest of the creative team built a believable world full of wonder, tension, tragedy, love, hate, and political strife. BLACK tackled issues of race, inequality, and fear of otherness without feeling preachy, all while telling an exciting capes and tights story. What if the X-Men’s civil rights allegory actually starred black heroes?
BLACK [AF] continues that story, sort of. Forgoing the miniseries-to-collection format of its predecessor, this original graphic novel is seemingly aimed at a younger audience. Eli Franklin is a fifteen year old black girl, adopted by a white family in rural Montana. She’s known for years that she has superpowers, but thought she was the only one. Once she learns she isn’t alone she decides to don a costume and help people – as Good Girl. Her mission is to show the world they don’t have to fear empowered black people. When a powerful new threat emerges will her mission be all for nothing? Is a patriotic costume enough to instill hope and quell fear in such a divided world?
I loved the design aesthetic of this book (attributed to Tim Smith 3), dropping the stark black-and-white art of the previous story for a muted pastel-like (the medium, not the color scheme) style almost completely devoid of black lines. The softer look aids the softer tone of the story in the most-perfect way. Interior artist Jennifer Johnson did a brilliant job setting this book apart from BLACK, and Osajyefo’s script guided the story in a lighter direction while still tackling themes of a heavier nature. While the big 3rd act fight scenes are exciting and larger than life, Johnson excels in those quieter character moments, of which I wish we had more of.
My one major gripe with the story is that there wasn’t enough characterization. Many of the people in Eli’s life are just kind of there, serving no purpose other than background. Her relationship with her adoptive father is one of trust (mostly) and really quite sweet, what little we see of it. Even Eli herself doesn’t seem to have a motivation for her actions other than simply “being good”, a fondly altruistic goal for sure, but not realistic. With this gripe aside I truly want to see more of Good Girl as this book, and her character, is chock full of potential. Osajyefo and crew (brilliant lettering and sfx from David Sharpe too) have created a world that is not so different from our own, and I rather like visiting there.
BLACK [AF] is a fun superhero book that tackles real life issues without ever feeling heavy-handed. Though imperfect it bubbles over with potential for future stories. It’s in finer bookstores everywhere from Black Mask Studios.