Black [AF] America’s SweetHeart by Kwanza Osajyefo is the story of Eli, a black 15-year-old adopted girl who has superpowers in a world where only a few black people have superpowers. Her white father just happens to work for the federal government and helps her become America’s first superhero. The rest of the setting is basically today’s America.
The cover is simply beautiful. The colors pop and the dialogue is easy to follow. It is a beautiful and ascetically pleasing book.
Personally, I also appreciated that the creative team gave Eli a natural hairstyle. African American women are almost always given Eurocentric hairstyles in movies, television shows, cartoons and comics unless it is historical or the character is actually from Africa. This style choice was refreshing.
Eli’s costume, I appreciated less. Although I understand the color scheme is meant to be patriotic, with her being “America’s sweetheart” and all. However, the rest of the design is like Captain America meets America Chavez and completely unoriginal. I can also hear Edna Mode from the Incredibles saying “no capes!”.
Plot and Characters
First, I think it’s important to note that I have not read the authors other work; Black, thus, my critique based on reading only this story within that universe. From the synopsis, this comic is obviously covering a topic that hits close to home for many American’s right now; race relations.
Although there is no universal experience that can define how any one race or ethnicity experiences life in the United States of America, we are often shown stereotypical experiences in media and Black [AF] is no exception. In vol. 1 the author gives us two stereotypical polarized views of the Black experience in America; the model minority and what some white Americans fears.
The main character Eli known as “Good Girl” attempts to bridge the racial divide by becoming the model minority. This is solidified in one panel near the beginning of the story when she states “You’re safe now, citizen! See, empowered black people aren’t scary.” The character’s actions are based on how she will be perceived by others, partially because they are controlled by her handlers.
There are certain parts of the comic where Eli struggles to be “Good Girl” in a way that is acceptable to the rest of America and her handlers. However, I don’t feel like they explored her inner conflict enough at this point to deviate from the model minority stereotype and really capture their objective.
In one sense it was easy to relate to Eli who as a 15-year-old is trying to do the right thing and be a good person. On the other hand, I felt very far away from her and the other characters and didn’t feel that their relationships were strong or developed. Even her relationships with her adoptive family seemed nonexistent.
Eli’s sister, on the other hand, is the personification of what some white people fear. She is the destroyer of what they consider to be “normal” and “right” within society. She was also very underdeveloped. The logic behind her choices was there but she lacked depth and three-dimensionality (if that isn’t a word, it is now).
Compared to Similar Super Story Lines
Black AF is kind of similar to X-Men. People get superpowers and the “normal” people and the government want them imprisoned and some want them used as weapons. This story takes it a step further applying the already negative race relations within the United States.
What I found to be more original in Black [AF] compared to other works was the politicizing of the heroes themselves, rather than as a general population. The way they ran Good Girl’s popularity ratings and planned her missions around the public perception as well as the public’s reaction to who she saved or stopped and when was realistic and unique.
A final issue I had with the story was the plausibility. In an age where anyone can be a reporter thanks to their cell phone camera, how is it possible that so many people could have super powers but no one finds out? This might have been explained better in the authors other work Black, but they shouldn’t make the assumption that the reader has read that title first or that they will read it after.
Bottom line, should you read Black [AF] America’s Sweetheart? I know I spent a lot of time pointing out potential flaws, but this reviewer says give it a chance. I think vol. 1 is just the beginning and as such only skimmed the surface of what they are trying to accomplish. They used these pages to set something up. I’m willing to give them a chance and read vol. 2 to see how much deeper they go with this story.
|Title||Black [AF] America’s Sweetheart|
|Issue||Vol. 1 (issues 1-6)|
|Written by||Kwanza Osajyefo|
|Illustrated by||Jennifer Johnson|
|Cover by||Sho Murase|
|Designer||Tim Smith 3|
|Published by||BlackMask Studio|