A Bulletproof Black Man


…but not the one you’re thinking of, I’m sure.

Luke Cage is Marvel’s biggest buzz since Netflix aired Jessica Jones. The release of the show also coincided with the publisher releasing a Luke Cage mini-series comic called Cage! While I loved all the Power Man stuff coming out this week, I’m not here to talk about him. I’m here to talk about Black Mask’s Black by Kwanza Osajyefo, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph, and a slew of other creators.

Over the last couple of years, a startling number of people have died due to police violence and gross negligence, and a great deal of those people happen to have dark skin. Please don’t argue with me because this fact is not debatable. Look at the statistics if you don’t believe me. Look at the videos. Hell, talk to people of color. Such violence cannot be ignored any longer. #blacklivesmatter

Ever since I read about Black in the Comic Shop News, I’ve been excited for this book. Black brings our social issues to the superhero world with the following premise: What if only black people got superpowers?

Within the first few pages, I was hooked. Styled entirely in black-and-white wash, it’s almost tricky to identify the black from the white, except when certain stylistic choices are made. The dialogue is snappy and direct. We are shown a confrontation from the point of the police, feeling the horror as three young boys are gunned down in the street with AK-47 rifle and other guns for wearing ‘basketball shorts and t-shirts,’ a description that happened to match three similarly young men who robbed a convenience store. Both groups of boys wore such clothing and both were black, which was somehow enough justification to gun them down. It’s a chilling echo of our society’s policing problem.

But one of the innocent youngsters, Kareem Jenkins, survives the shootout. He’s invulnerable, scared, and gets away only to be recruited by an organization studying these abilities. We also get hints of a group of people who hunt these super-powered people. (One guess as to their skin tone.)

In this day and age, when innocent people are dying, it’s nice to read a story about a person who survives such a shooting. I think it’s interesting to read a narrative that goes in the opposite direction of traditional superhero comics and is ready to challenge the way we view the world. Some people may complain and say that a book like this is racist or sends the wrong message about people, but I disagree. Black asks us to make the hard decision to look at what’s really happening.

Over 75% of superhero movies, comic books, TV shows, and consumable media are about one demographic of humans on this planet. Out of 8 billion humans, white people make up about 20% of the population, so that means that the majority of what we are consuming represents about a fifth of the world’s population. So I ask the question, what about the other 80%?

In my opinion, books like Black are the start of representing everyone. They help us ask the tough questions and start the conversations that nobody wants to start because of fear, shame, anger, oppression, or simply because it’s too complicated. It’s time that we start talking about what’s complicated, however, or nothing is ever going to change — and to me that’s the scariest scenario imaginable.


Nandini Bapat
About Nandini Bapat (11 Articles)
Nandini is a comic book nut from Los Angeles who prefers to spend time reading comics about people swinging around rooftops (or flying; she's not picky). Then she occasionally writes about stuff and posts it online. 'cause, why not?

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