Just by the title alone this comic from BOOM! Studios is courting controversy and to be honest the synopsis is a tad dubious at best.
What’s to Love: Two of the industry’s most respected and prolific creators come together for the first time in a deeply personal passion project. J.G. Jones (52, Wanted, Y: The Last Man) and Mark Waid (Irredeemable, Superman: Birthright, Kingdom Come) take on a powerful, beautifully painted story set during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Strange Fruit is a challenging, provocative examination of the heroic myth confronting the themes of racism, cultural legacy, and human nature through a literary lens, drawing from Southern folklore and tradition.
What It Is: It’s 1927 in the town of Chatterlee, Mississippi, drowned by heavy rains. The Mississippi River is rising, threatening to break open not only the levees, but also the racial and social divisions of this former plantation town. A fiery messenger from the skies heralds the appearance of a being, one that will rip open the tensions in Chatterlee. Savior or threat? It depends on where you stand. All the while, the waters are still rapidly rising…
Were it not Mark Waid and J.G. Jones creating this my knee would be jerking so hard that two creators are taking a terrible time in American history to tell a superhero story, then again, isn’t the point of superhero stories to reflect and give hope for the time they’re set in? I also imagine the title, Strange Fruit, taken from a classic Billie Holliday song is also going to set people’s teeth on edge.
So, the comic itself, how does it come over?
Initially very well. The art by Jones is superb and the attention to detail is excellent, and the creators don’t shirk from using ‘that’ word in it’s correct context and I can’t help but think they’re going to take some shite for it.
The story itself seems interesting enough initially without the superhero element which to me is introduced far too quickly before we’re immersed into the characters and situation, but some of the characterisation is clunky and a wee bit too one-dimensional at times but the art throughout this is a joy.
Overall though it smacks of telling an easy story so the racists are really racist, especially the Ku Klux Klan who are set up to be the first baddies our alien superhero takes on.
Strange Fruit is an odd read. It’s trying to be a bit of social comment while welding this superhero tale on the side of it, and it doesn’t mix especially when institutional racism and the indiscriminate murder of black people by officers of the state is still going on in the USA. It just stays on the right side of good taste, but future issues will reveal how long this may be the case.