In “BLACK”, Kwanza Osajyefo Creates a World where Only Black People Have Superpowers.
Data**Received Subject of Interest::Black The Comic - Begin_Transmission
In a world that already fears and hates them – what if only Black people had superpowers? Through six issues of BLACK, we are treated to a straightforward plot, incredible artwork, and a conclusion that leaves you wanting more.
The story starts off quickly, meeting a 15-year-old boy named Kareem Jenkins who is shot senselessly by police only to wake up in an ambulance and find out he is part of a small percentage of Black people who have superpowers that have been kept secret for centuries.
Of course, there is also a secret government agency called "MANN Company" conspiring to capture, control and experiment on “empowered” Blacks and discover ways to give abilities to white people. Their goal is to capture Kareem whose abilities are unique and never before seen.
Here is a page early in the story where Kareem is thrust off a building unharmed.
The story centers around the internal conflict of Kareem who now goes by “X” on how he should use his new-found powers, and whether they should be kept secret at all. The stories switches gears quickly taking a MATRIX meets HEROES approach where "X" has to make an important decision and the fate of the world may rest on his shoulders. The problem is, "X" doesn't know who he can really trust because the group who helped him is also holding and suppressing those who seem to be "out of control" and Kareem may be the most powerful of them all, to date.
On his journey he meets a host of other incredible and empowered Black people who present unique and terrifying powers like Bizzy Bazz, Zero and a Transgender woman named Swerve who in one of my favorite scenes help a man escape from murderous redneck racists hell bent on another lynching. Spoiler Alert: The racists get killed in the most violent and satisfying way.
Here's a page from the scene where a few of them get instantly incinerated.
When asked about Black, Osajyefo says “I grew up reading all of these characters who are [supposed to be] these analogies for the Black experience, like The X-Men. (X-Men’s Professor X and Magneto, who are both White, have been viewed as ideological analogues for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.) “Why do we need a veneer of attractive White people [to talk about the Black experience]? There was just this disconnect for me. So, I was like, ‘What if only Black people had superpowers?’”
"Why do we need a veneer of attractive White people to talk about the Black experience"
Here is the scene where Kareem finds out about the origins of his powers.
The absence of an allegorical veneer made a lot of people uncomfortable — to put it mildly. As soon as the project launched, Osajyefo was deluged by accusations of racism for giving superpowers only to Black people. “That was pretty jarring,” he says. After all, comic books have featured only White characters with superpowers for decades. “But the minute I poke a hole in that and say, ‘Okay, well, what if only Black people have superpowers?’ you’re like, ‘Ah! I don’t feel good about that.’ The immediate question I have is, why don’t you feel comfortable with that? Because that shouldn’t be your reaction. It shouldn’t.”
Here are some super-powered friends about to engage in a fight with MANN.
The Black series is both fast paced, entertaining and very informative and while I do wish Osajyefo had taken more time to flesh out a few of the main characters backstories, the story has a lot of promise.
In a world where we’re constantly reminded that Black lives do not matter especially when it comes to police and the criminal justice system, it is a reprieve to have stories that run counter to that ideology and give us alternate ways to look at our realities. The pacing, dialogue, and action are all on point and the story leaves a lot to the imagination.
It’ll be interesting to see where the series takes us in its sequel WHITE – Live on Kickstarter which picks up three years after the events of BLACK and where the world knows that empowered Black people exist.