This week, like many in the online community, I want to use my article to shed some light on important Black voices in the comics community. To that end, I’d like to encourage my readers to check out Black AF America’s Sweetheart from Black Mask Comics.
Before I get into the main review, I also wanted to shout out some important Black names in the comics community that I encourage my readers to look into. Obviously, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Black comic creators is the amazing Milestone Comic’s Imprint. This series featured characters like Icon, Hardware, and Rocket (who recently appeared in the DC animated series Young Justice), and no doubt the most popular character Static (which later spawned the Static Shock cartoon). This universe was one of the first to focus entirely on a world populated by significant Black superheroes and gained a significant following for its time.
There have been a few attempts to relaunch this universe by DC, most recently in 2018, however, a series of legal problems stood in the way of DC getting the relaunch off the ground. While individual issues are fairly easy to find at most conventions (whenever those start up again), collected editions are few and far between. Like many others in the comic’s community, I would love to see these books released in new collections, and really hope to one day see the characters back in print.
I also recommend Dennis O’Neil’s run on The Question, drawn by Black comic artist and Milestone Comic co-founder Denys Cowan. If you enjoyed works like Frank Miller’s Sin City, this is definitely a book to check out, and Cowan’s art is a crucial part of the enjoyment of the book.
Jeff Lemire is currently writing a sequel to that run with Cowan titled The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage. If you have picked that book up and like what you saw, I really recommend grabbing the original run. If you have not checked out either I encourage you to do so since both are excellent and would go a long way towards showing DC that the Black Label imprint could be used for more than just Batman books.
Now, onto the review proper. In the mid-2010’s writers Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith 3, along with artist Jamal Igle and one of my favourite cover artists of all time Khary Randolph (have you seen his Teen Titan covers?!) launched a Kickstarter for their new comic titled Black. The premise was a world where super-powered people existed, but they were exclusively Black. Here’s the blurb: 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.
It was an ambitious story, and not surprisingly it did very well on Kickstarter, leading to a sequel series titled White, and today’s graphic novel recommendation Black AF: America’s Sweetheart.
Here’s today’s blurb:
Can a black woman be America’s first superhero?
Eli Franklin is a 15-year-old girl living in rural Montana-and she just happens to be the most powerful person on the planet. In the aftermath of the world learning that only black people have superpowers, Eli makes her debut as the superhero Good Girl, on a mission to help people and quell the fear of empowered blacks. When a super-terrorist threatens to take away everything Eli has worked toward, will donning a patriotic costume be enough for her to find acceptance?
America’s Sweetheart expands BLACK into a universe of heroes.
Eli is a very interesting character. Adopted by well to do white parents that live comfortably in the suburbs, she had a very different experience growing up than the characters in Black. Eli’s adopted father works for the government and is worried about her secret getting out, so he encourages her to keep her powers hidden. One day, after worldwide news broke of the existence of these superpowered people, Eli, in a moment of anger, threw the small, metal sphere, the only thing she was found with when she was adopted, into space. It immediately returns to earth and attaches itself to her in a scene that fans of the Venom symbiote will definitely recognize. And just like the symbiote, it creates a superhero costume for her, encouraging her to try to be the hero she has always wanted to be.
Eli quickly adopts the superhero name “Good Girl” and sets out to be the world’s first superhero. At first, it goes really well, with people loving and supporting her, and her father discovering her alter ego and actually bringing her in to be the first government-approved superhero. As I said, Eli has lived a very different life from others like her, and believes, deeply believes, that if she just works hard enough, she can teach the people of the world not to fear her or people like her. She also believes the government can be trusted.
Eli’s belief in her ability to enforce change, however, is quickly challenged. First, her poll numbers drop, fueled by those who fear what she can do, and then another woman with the same abilities as Eli appears, and she is bent on destroying everything Eli believes in. The majority of the second half of the book revolves around their argument/ battle and while I don’t want to spoil the reveals here, I will say that if you are a fan of the dynamic between Magneto and Professor X, you’ll find a lot to love in this part of America’s Sweetheart.
I really loved America’s Sweetheart. First off, it’s a clean, well-focused piece with beautiful artwork by Jennifer Johnson. It has a bright and optimistic style that makes it a solid title for younger readers, and I really recommend it for parents to read with their kids. You don’t have to have read the other books in the series to follow the events of this one, and I think that anyone could pick this up and discuss the ideas that Kwanza Osajyefo raises without needing any outside backstory. Osajyefo also does a wonderful job presenting different points of view meaning this book is a great way to open up the discussion with younger readers.
If you’re a parent wondering how to talk to your kids about what is going on in the world right now, I give Black AF America’s Sweetheart a very high recommendation as a starting point.
So that’s it for me this week. Stay safe everyone!