Monday, May 09, 2005

The insomnia comic book post

My last final is tomorrow and I'm having a hard time going to sleep. At the same time, I've studied so much for this thing that my brain is about to start leaking out of my ear. Since I have nothing else to do and I'm already seated behind the computer, I figured I'd do some blogging. Since this past Saturday was free comic book day, I figured I'd let you guys know what I have been reading these days.
As you will probably notice, a lot of these are written by black writers or feature black characters. This is partially due to the fact that the writing is good and partially because I figure if I have the time to complain about the lack of representation in comics, I can put my money where my mouth is and support well written black comics. Plus I'm getting tired of the culture of sensationalism that the big two comic companies are working from these days so I'm going further afield in search of good writing and decent art. Anyway, without further ado, here is the list.

Black Panther

Black Panther #1

I was huge fan of Christopher Priest's remarkable run on Black Panther and was really unhappy when the book got cancelled. I was livid when the series he moved on to, The Crew, was cancelled without ever getting off the ground. But that's a story for another day.

The new relaunch of the Black Panther comic is being written by Reggie Hudlin, director of House Party and Boomerang as well as co-writer of the incredibly funny Birth Of A Nation. Unsurprisingly, he's proving to be one hell of a writer. So far, I have been loving every issue of the new 'Panther' and I've even managed to turn a couple of people unto the book.

For those of you who are unaware of the story behind the Black Panther, he is the monarch of Wakanda, a fictitious African country that also happens to be the most developed nation on the planet. He has no actual superhuman abilities of his own, a special herb gives him heightened strength and senses but he is mostly a superbly trained human being with access to an arsenal of the most technologically advanced equipment on the planet. Basically, Imagine a black Batman with significantly greater resources at his disposal and you'll get an idea of the potential of the character. When he was first introduced into the Marvel Universe he hunted down and captured the Fantastic Four as a test. Of course, immediately after that he spent the majority of his comic book time as a glorified cheerleader for the Avengers until Priest brought him back to life as a credible character who was always several steps ahead of his enemies. Reggie's work seems to be continuing very much in this direction and if definitely worth picking up if you're a comic fan.

Incidentally, for those interested in Priest's excellent run on the character, there are two trade paperbacks available that I highly recommend. This and this.


Angeltown #5

This book is the latest crime series by novelist Gary Phillips. I was actually unfamiliar with his work until I started reading rave reviews for this series. Which is sad because I'm a huge fan of crime novels. He's pretty high up on my summer reading list now.

Anyway, back to the book. Its a modern day noir-ish detective story about a private detective trying to track down a professional basketball player accused of murdering his white ex-wife (I wonder where the idea for that could have come from)
Of course, nothing is what it seems and this case ends up attracting the attention of people high up on both sides of the law leaving our detective to stay alive long enough to figure out the truth and find his man while avoiding a lesbian bounty hunter trying to snatch up the same target. Of course there's a huge amount of sex, violence and strong language, all staples of the genre. If you like crime stories you'll probably like this one. Its well paced and really well written


Ocean #1

I'm a huge Warren Ellis fan. I have been since Transmetropolitan, which, I believe, is one of the best critiques of the modern media I have encountered in a work of fiction. Plus the main character uses a weapon called a 'bowel disrupter' on people. Some people i know find him too cynical and suspicious of people in authority. Personally, I share a lot of his misgivings in those areas so I tend to agree with his stuff. Plus I enjoy his somewhat twisted sense of humor.

Ocean is a straightforward science fiction thriller about a UN weapons inspector who gets called to one of the moons of Jupiter when an exploration crew finds the cryogenically preserved citizens of an alien race and their weapons. Of course, it just happens that the only other people in the area are he crew of a weapons research station belonging to one of the largest corporations in the known world. This being an Ellis book, the company is evil and the manager of the station is insane. Plus the aliens might wake up at any minuye and the only thing we know about them is that they are prone to violence and have bigger guns than we do. It's funny, violent and very thoughtful in parts. Pretty much what I expect from him. Plus, as usual, he provides a diverse cast of characters and even throws in a black male lead. That's actually the other thing I really like about him. He creates incredibly diverse worlds and makes them seem perfectly natural, as opposed to a lot of writers who toss in one non-white character and them write them as a token.

Cannon Busters

Papa Midnight #2

This I picked up almost on a whim this weekend. The creator of the series, Lesean Thomas, is apparently one of the new generation of black comicbook artists and writers. His art seems to be very anime/manga inspired, which is not that unusual these days. i have a teenage cousin who also wants to become a comic book artist and also draws heavily from the same sources.

The book itself is set in a magic - meets - technology style world and apparently draws heavily on The Wizard of Oz for its story about a young robot and her friends who are on a quest. So far, we've just been introduced to the world and our main character when all hell breaks loose. The art in this issue is very well put together. I hope the story lives up to it. For now, it gets three issues to prove itself to me.

Papa Midnight

Papa Midnight #2

Like Angeltown, this book is also being written by a novelist who has decided to try his hands at comic books. In this case, Mat Johnson gets to write the origin of Papa Midnite, a character from the Hellblazer comic book series and the movie Constantine.

Papa Midnite is a nightclub owner in New York who serves both humans and supernatural beings. In the movie he maintains a strict neutrality while in the comics he is somewhat of a crime lord and definitely has an agenda of his own. Mat Johnson creates a story rooted in Akan mythology and the history of slaves in New York to put together a very interesting tale of Midnite's origin and his true purpose. I'm biased towards this book since my father's side of the family are Akan(Ashanti and Akyem for those who are interested) and there is obviously a lot of attention put into getting certain aspects of the culture and mythology right. That aside, its a really enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone.

Anyway, thats enough nerdy behavior for one day. I'm going to bed now. Wish me luck tomorrow.

1 comment:

Mat Johnson said...

Dear Ghana Geek,

I'm glad you liked Papa Midnite. I actually spent time in Accra, living about two miles past Circle by Cocoa Clinic. I used to volunteer at the Dubois Center, in Airport. Hence the Akan references, which are also based on actual New York history.


Mat Johnson