Rating: 5/5 – Race Relations in 1927 Mississippi With a Twist
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.
July 8, 2015 might as well be called the “Week of Waid”. Waid’s relaunch of Archie (with the fabulous Fiona Staples) was a solid 5/5 and Strange Fruit #1 (with phenomenal painted art by J.G. Jones) hit the racks that same day and was every bit as good. Our setting is Chatterlee, Mississippi in April, 1927. Storms in the Midwest are swelling the Mississippi river and the levees may not hold. As was common for the time and place, race relations were a far cry from ‘equitable’. As much as there is still a long way to go today, things were pretty bad for the black population in 1927 Mississippi.
That said, this is apparently a very polarizing comic book. There are sites on the internet up in arms at the audacity of 2 white creators having the temerity to create a story like this, suggesting that they should not have even attempted it because they just cannot understand. I can’t even begin to understand that perspective myself, since I’m white, so I won’t even try. Offense can be found in ANY creative work if you go in looking to be offended. I read this and got a very anti-racism vibe, which I think is what the creators were going for.
Now back to the review and my reactions to the comic fro my personal perspective.
I’m going to go out on a limb here (maybe not too far out) and make a Superman comparison, knowing how much Mark Waid loves the character, and wishing I had read this comic BEFORE I talked to Mark in San Diego last week so I could have talked to him about it. What if Superman had landed in 1927 Mississippi as a full grown man? Oh… and what if he had been black? The local Klan members would get a pretty rude surprise, don’t you think? Turns out that yes, they would have… I can’t wait to see their reaction to the setup on the last page of this issue! Klan outrage is coming and it probably won’t end well for them.
The fully painted art by J.G. Jones was exquisite and added a sense of realism to the story that would be missing if rendered in a different art style. Take out the strange visitor from another planet and we could be reading straight historic fiction, or perhaps a retelling of events that actually happened. Waid and Jones really combined to make this story click for me. I don’t want to wait a month for #2! If you read it in collected edition format you won’t have to endure a frustrating wait between each issue of this 4 issue series, on the other hand, you’ll be depriving yourself of seeing this masterful bit of comics storytelling for 3-6 months waiting for the trade.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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