- Space Negro
- 1First Comics
- Created, Written, & Illustrated by Jared Sams
- Colors by Daniel Morales
- Additional colors by Mohammed Agbadi
There are a lot of people who don’t think that the movie Blazing Saddles could (or should) be made these days. Personally, I think that there will always be an audience with the intelligence and awareness to “get it”, to appreciate the way slapstick humor can be used to reflect and defuse social commentary. It’s worth mentioning that the talent involved in creating that kind of potential mine field would have to be very aware of the kind of task they’d be taking on. Without the likes of Mel Brooks and Clevon Little, Blazing Saddles could have ended in spectacular failure.
And then I get an email asking me to take a look at a comic called Space Negro. I’m not gonna lie to you and say that I didn’t have doubts about reviewing a book like this, but it came my way direct from the Deputy Publishers at 1First Comics, John & Matt Yuan. I have faith in their creativity, humor, & sense of what might be over-the-top (okay, maybe not that last one so much), so I told them I’d give it a look. I did not tell them that if it sucked, I’d walk away, and they’d never hear from me again.
Spoiler warning: It did not suck.
So, what is Space Negro? If I’m being totally honest, I’m not really sure. There is no lack of tongue in cheek, irreverent humor. There’s also a fair bit of social commentary… and before some of you pump the brakes at that, lemme say that at no time did I feel like I was being cracked over the head with a Hammer of Wokeness (whatever the hell “woke” even means anymore, aside from its place as a Big Red Button guaranteed to start an argument with anyone, in any gathering). Jared Sams may rub some people the wrong way with his humor, but it seems to me like he’s really having a good time, to borrow from our U.K. friends, taking the piss out of anyone taking offense.
That goes for the artwork as well, also done by Jared, in a cartoony and occasionally manga-ish style. It works, taking a more light-hearted approach to something that could have been a hot button as his character designs follow suit with his protagonist’s story arc. Supernova and the world he lives in are given an exaggerated visual spin, where a more realistic looking style could have hit the darker notes (no pun intended) and taken emphasis off the humor.
On a more technical note, Jared’s layouts are spectacular! There’s a two-page spread in particular that stands out as it takes a serpentine route, carrying the action in the comicbook equivalent of a movie “oner”. Other pages abandon the traditional grid in a more freeform approach, with round panels crossing into irregular six-sided panels, or just doing away with borders entirely. Jared Sams fills every page with visual information, without letting it all devolve into a chaotic ball pit.
I’d be slipping if I failed to give props to colorists Daniel Morales & Mohammed Agbadi. Between the two of them, the environments of Space Negro have depth, its characters have weight. Pages go from looking suitably cosmic to enclosed and claustrophobic, depending on the needs of the story. Lighting effects flare, shadows loom, & a newly awakened evil glows with the hellfire that spawned it. In all, it’s a fantastic job that adds to the fantastic visual appeal of this book.
It’s all golden as reluctant hero Supernova Watkins makes his way through a universe where every deck seems stacked against him. Whether he’s fighting space racists of the Ala-8ma Galaxy or seeking out the (hair) pick of destiny to get his ‘do under control, Supernova is just a brother making his way and keeping it real. If your focus is on finding something to get mad at, Space Negro is not going to be for you. If you’re looking for some honest humor with a twist of the absurd, I think you could do a lot worse than this one.
Look for it in Previews this December, with a release date set for February, 2024