Black Badge #1
By Matt Kindt,Tyler Jenkins & Hilary Jenkins
Black Badge is a comic that on its surface or first glance is extremely shallow, but it’s a book that has potential and may even plant itself in reader’s minds and grow in appreciation. A troop of scouts are on an overseas trip. One particular group seems to be the outcasts and tread their own path away from the others. It’s not that they consciously become lost or want to escape from the stupidity or mockery of others, it’s that they have a particular mission…
Goonies and Stand By Me are clear influences on the material, so fans of coming of age stories such as those will find this comic interesting. Unfortunately, something the comic lacks, that its influences use so well, is levity to balance the overly dramatic nature of the content. If there isn’t some humor, it’s hard for an audience to by into a highly unrealistic or exaggerated concept that involves teenagers. It just comes with the territory. Also, the character’s don’t have distinct voices quite yet, except for one character, Wylie. The rest are still one-dimensional as of the end of the first issue. The creative team, consisting of Matt Kindt, Tyler Jenkins, and Hilary Jenkins, try to circumvent this by spoon-feeding readers who these characters are with two introduction pages; one in the beginning and the last page of the book. Despite being visually appealing pages, it feels like a cheap or lazy way to handle characterization.
What carries this comic narratively is the art. At first, the Jenkins duo’s art may seem lacking in detail or even sloppy and to some extent that is probably true (see page one, panel two and bleeding color work throughout), but it’s that very unrefined grit and patina that seems to complement the comic so well. The characters are clearly defined and actually give them, well, character. How the color work is done is clearly informed by the line art and inks by Tyler Jenkins. There’s an odd sense of beauty that Hilary Jenkins brings to the chaotic techniques she uses to bring the pages to life. There are some fascinating color palette choices throughout as well that make certain scenes or panels stand out and keep the reader engaged. Also, it’s worth paying attention to the page layouts. The panel structure in the beginning of the issue is very uniform, sticking to simple four or five panel designs, but as the plot thickens, the layouts change and become more unique. It’s a fascinating storytelling correlation with the narrative because it starts with the scouts together as troop, being “uniform,” then they break off and journey to accomplish their dangerous goal.
Even with all its flaws, there is promise in the premise of Black Badge. There are so many directions one could take a concept like this and create an immersive, rich world. The last page is not exactly a cliffhanger, but it will leave the audience having their minds wander and imagine the possibilities this series can offer. Hopefully, the execution will improve and not dash expectations. Badge is worth checking out. It’s not a perfect nor groundbreaking comic, but it will warrant multiple reads to fully appreciate what it’s trying to convey.