By Leroy Douresseaux
July 23, 2006 - 17:29
Mr. Charlie #93 invites you to some commentary and a review:
PUBLIC ENEMY #1
When you look at the landscape of American comics, particularly that coming of Marvel and DC, you don’t see many black faces (characters of color?), and the number of African-American creators has remained small. Among that number, none have ever received the big assignments – writing flagship titles such as Superman, Action Comics, Batman, The Amazing Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, etc.
It is not, however, uncommon to run into Black (the term which I prefer to African-American) comic book fans. The black guys I knew loved, absolutely loved superhero comic books. Also, anyone who is familiar with hip hop culture has to have noticed how often comic book motifs: panel arrangements, word balloons, captions, cover designs (especially Marvel’s 1970’s standard cover template), etc. have appeared on rap album covers. Still, many of these brothers wondered (sometimes aloud to me) if there would ever be more super colored folks.
So while I was surprised to hear that the seminal 1980’s political rap group, Public Enemy, was going to have a comic book and after I was a little less surprised that it’s based upon them rather than being some kind of documentary, I was not surprised that the book has kind of a superhero vibe. In their new comic book, P.E. is a combination commando unit and community protector. They’re an action squad taking on the bad guys who try to hurt not only the local urban community, but also the nation at large and perhaps the world.
While Chuck D, the P.E.'s leader or lead rapper, is educating the masses about how the government uses the mass media, entertainment, pop culture, and consumerism to keep the masses placated and chasing after the next hot thing, Flavor Flav (the sidekick?), Professor Griff, and a commando unit of P.E. agents are busting the bad guys – mostly terrorists. Their ultimate enemy is some kind of shadow government that uses racism and fear to keep people of different ethnicities and beliefs apart while these shadowy power brokers plunder the world’s resources to amass wealth and power. They apparently call themselves the Executive Order. P.E. runs into them when the heroes try to protect a young, black man whom the Order transformed into a powerfully dangerous living weapon – one his creators want to retrieve at any cost. And Public Enemy will pay if they get in the way.
PUBLIC ENEMY #1 was surprisingly fun. I didn’t really know what to expect, but turning these recording artists into urban superheroes who mix positive messages with self-defense is spot-on for P.E. Having Chuck D write the series helps because D can get his message out and indulge in his superhero fantasies.
Co-writer/artist Adam Wallenta likely brings the structure and familiarity with writing for the comics form to the table. Wallenta is a good storyteller. His art isn’t beautiful, nor is he a world’s class draftsman. He has something more important than fancy drawing. He understands how to tell stories using the comics page and knows how to tell those stories with dramatic impact.
Reading this comic, I could see a young artist making all the right choices when it comes to designing the panels – camera angles or camera shots, if you will. Engaging the reader, he makes this an interesting book, and I’d like to read more. I like how it takes a music group and finds a way to make them superheroes in a fashion that believable in a comic book setting. I heartily recommend this to fans of Public Enemy and people who just want comics that look different. These superheroes… of color may not replace those of old, but given time and commitment on the part of the creators, the Public Enemy of the comic books could have their own hallowed ground.
Bin review score: 7 of 10
This new comic is available at comic shops or through the publisher's website at americanmule.com.
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