This week at Black Ship Books, I bring a review of B. Alex Thompson’s Hass #1. This book, published by Approbation Comics, is apparently getting its share of accolades, having already been nominated for two 2014 Glyph Comics Awards for Best Writer and Best Cover, and after reading it for myself, I can say that it is deserving of both of these honors. I admit that I typically am not the type to read outside of the science fiction and fantasy genres, but I am glad that I gave this one a chance. The art is great and fitting to the story’s tone, the characters are intriguing enough, and the dialogue, along with the protagonist’s internal monologue, is snappy and doesn’t miss a beat. The story’s pacing is good too, though it all takes place over the course of a single day in this first issue. I think what makes Hass #1 the gem that it is really is the fact that the story brings forth a monster that has been ignored for a while but has reared its ugly head numerous times in the media over the last few years: racism. The book is described on the back cover as “a story that’s Romeo & Juliet meets American History X” and getting into the book you can see why.
The story opens with Joshua Jones, the African American protagonist, wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and being brutally beaten inthe backyard of someone’s home by a group of five Caucasian boys. Josh’s internal monologue helps to open up the narrative and brings us to a flashback of the beginning of his day, his first day of college to be exact, to explain how he ended up in the backyard of the house in the first place. In the beginning we see that Josh is an analytical, audacious, and arrogant young man. Upon arriving on campus for his first day, Josh spots a pretty blonde, whose name we don’t learn is Maggie until about halfway through the book, and decides to pursue her through campus and into her medical orientation class. Following the class, which Josh promptly interrupts in order to impress Maggie, we learn that the professor is actually Josh’s Aunt Yvonne and he is not attending college by choice or with goals in mind. Later, Josh comes across Maggie at a concert and finally succeeds in wooing her into a date. As the pair get to know each other, things seem to take a turn for the better, especially for Josh who is already getting the girl of his dreams it seems,but it all flips into a turn for the worse soon after Josh gets what he thought he wanted.
Not to be one to spoil a good thing, I will just say that the ending of issue one is unexpected, which is actually a great thing, and I love the setup so far. There are a good number of characters already introduced who I can see playing a significant role in the shaping of Josh and Maggie’s (shall we say “forbidden”) romance. Thompson makes the chemistry between Josh and Maggie believable and relatable. Also, learning more about Josh’s relationship with Yvonne, what happened to his parents, Maggie’s cousin Cole, and Josh’s roommate Asher make the series that much more interesting. I would recommend Hass to anyone in search of a good comic series.