Comic Publishers

February 11, 2018

Black Mask Reviews: Black [AF]: America’s Sweetheart

Black [AF]: America’s Sweetheart
Writer: Kwanza Osajyefo
Artist: Jennifer Johnson
Letterer: David Sharpe
Cover: Sho Murase

When Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith 3 created a world where only Black people have superpowers they opened up a brand new realm of possibilities of where that story could go. America’s Sweetheart is one of those and just like any good spin-off it builds on the core story while maintaining it’s own identity. One that leaves the city streets for Montana and centers 15-year-old Eli Franklin who is coming into her own as the world’s first superhero and fear is gripping the country.

Where the original series hits hard and fast out the gate, America’s Sweetheart takes it’s time as Osajyefo introduces us to Eli. She is a much different protagonist than we met in Kareem that goes far beyond gender. Her entire worldview is drastically dissimilar to his which is a reason why she immediately wants to use her abilities to become a superhero and help others. Osajyefo keeps this journey of self discovery adventurous and full of heart while also addressing some topical issues along the way. He accomplishes this in a way that doesn’t beat you over the head with preachy moments but is quite organic and moves Eli’s story and it’s richer because of it. One area in particular does stand out and it’s how Eli is extended a certain amount of privilege due to her father but it’s when she decides to actually help people who look like her is when the powers that be take issue.  All of this while Osejyefo cranks the superhero action all the way up and introduces a world threat and a foe worthy of Eli’s abilities.

America’s Sweetheart is also visually striking from the panel layouts to the art inside thanks to Jennifer Johnson. The first thing that I noticed about Eli’s overall design and something that made me smile was that she’s not drawn as some oversexualized teenager in a skimpy superhero costume. Considering how it could have gone down I’m happy to see writer and artist agreed on this look for the character. She’s a kid in her patriotic costume kicking butt and saving lives and not here to titillate. Though, considering how she got her costume it was one stressful looking scene and I was legit worried for the kid. The flashback sequences come off effortlessly in that classic nine panel layout style while some of the more action oriented parts are big and more dynamic. Johnson nails the character moments and enhances the narrative but it’s even better when we get to see the visual story play out with less dialogue to get in the way of the artwork. The final fight is actually DBZ worthy in it’s intensity and overall destruction on several continents!

Black [AF]: America’s Sweetheart is worth picking up whether you read the original Black series or not. There is a slight payoff if you’re familiar with the source material but in no way is it required reading to enjoy America’s Sweetheart. This might be aimed at a younger audience but that doesn’t mean that the story isn’t enjoyable for older readers. The creative team isn’t here to insult your intelligence so you get a smart and exciting superhero story full of heart.

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