By Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Robin Riggs, Steven Walker, Patricia Daguisan, Dave Sharpe, Khary Randolph, and Sarah Litt

Black Mask Studios puts out some exceptional comic books, but Black stands apart from the rest and issue #4 proves equally as powerful as the previous three issues. It’s a modern-day superhero story appropriate for the real world and, in short, we need more books like this. Creators Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, et al have invented a highly original super-powered series with an entire universe of possibilities. It’s hardcore and gritty, but at the same time it’s a thoughtful and well thought out premise that allows the characters to feel genuinely real despite their uncanny abilities. Written with a true designer sensibility, the story moves forward forcefully and with purpose to the point where readers can be sure it’s all planned out and intentional. The concept of an unarmed black teenager, shot down by police, who gets up again only to realize he’s invulnerable is actually very compelling. The worst possible outcome becomes a remarkable turn of events, that doesn’t stop with the main characters rebirth, so to speak. No, this book has always had a lot more story to tell than those initial events, and the more issues they publish, the more readers will realize this is a comic book of epic proportions.

The story peaks in issue #4 with stakes that are higher than ever. All of the characters are so perfectly represented, no matter how chaotic the plot has become, that credit is owed to writer and co-creator Kwanza Osajyefo. With authentic dialogue and truly amazing action scenes, Osajyefo is making a comic of rare quality and something we may not see again for a while. So, if it feels like Black Mask Studios is taking their time printing new issues, rest assured that, at least with Black, it is totally worth the wait. You wouldn’t want to rush a book like this that is as faithful to its message and social commentary as it is to building a world full of imaginative possibilities.

Though steeped in real world situations with accounts and circumstances ripped from the headlines, Black doesn’t settle for the all too well known and disheartening consequences we may be used to. There’s still plenty of drama, so you can’t expect things to consistently work out for the characters and frankly it’s exciting when the fighting starts because super powers don’t necessarily mean a clean getaway or positive outcome. No matter the situation, Black is entertaining, if not intriguing. With cover art that typically sets a heavy tone, you can’t help but go into the book with a sense of dread. Although, instead of dwelling on a single theme, Black reinvents what it means to be a hero in a world that rejects people based on race. Issue #4’s cover, by Khary Randolph, spoofs the old school Donkey Kong video game, which at a glance may be humorous, but upon closer inspection is another example of real world cruelty. Leave it to artists to creatively show us exactly what’s going on in the world with context that we understand and can perhaps relate too.

Illustrator Jamal Igle is a masterful comic book illustrator. He is a total professional with a quality of art suitable for the mainstream, but ideal for this book at the same time. His storytelling ability maintains the overall tone of Black while heightening each scene with dynamic panel arrangements and explosive action. Igle flawlessly creates a gigantic sense of presence and intensity that is true to the book, while remaining faithful to his characters. Often taken for granted in comics, Igle draws expressive emotions and intricate details all at the same time, doing justice to the subject and the individual points of drama along the way. As of issue #4, it’s difficult to imagine Black drawn by anyone else besides Jamal Igle. Lush black and white illustrations create a contrast that is both soothing and inviting, which manages to make the comic that much more accessible.

You may not want, or be able to give any more personal time to increasingly depressing current affairs than you already do, but this comic offers a degree of escapism while staying loyal to it’s inspiration. So if you want something grounded in the real world, which ultimately becomes a thrilling work of fiction, then look no further. Black just may be the most important superhero comic book available today if not ever.

About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.