Published on January 17th, 2018 | by Dana Folkard
BLACK [AF] AMERICA’S SWEETHEART REVIEW
Summary: A story that is politically charged and not afraid to challenge the superhero genre.
Eli Franklin is a very special girl, possessing powers which make her the most powerful person on the planet. After the world discovers that only black people possess superhuman abilities, Eli steps out as America’s first superhero, desperately trying to heal this fractured world that fears empowered blacks. Written by Kwanza Osajyefo, with illustrations by Jennifer Johnson, Black [AF] America’s Sweetheart is the first spin off from the BLACK Universe.
The story begins with fifteen-year old Eli Franklin, reflecting on her life so far and the difficulties of growing up with superhuman abilities. She has been forced to hide her powers her entire life, reinforced by her adopted father’s high-powered job at the White House. Her life was pretty secure and safe until a video that reveals a secret US prison for superpowered blacks, called “the Negromuerte video” goes viral. This single event acts as the catalyst for change, and like a domino effect we see more footage of superpowered black exposed to the world. With this news comes a new fear directed towards empowered blacks and their superhuman abilities. The world engulfed in a wave of fear and hate, and we begin to see violent acts occur, targeted at those who are suspected of possessing powers. Fearing nothing and wanting to make a difference in the world, Eli decides that she is going to start helping people. Donning a fancy new super suit, she flies out and begins to make a change. This new life takes her down a treacherous path, filled with violence, fear, prejudice and an encounter that will alter her life and the fate of the world forever.
This is my first time stepping into the BLACK Universe, having not read the precursor to this story. Straight away, I was intrigued by the concept, finding it to be a compelling idea and a fresh take on the superhero genre. The main protagonist is Eli Franklin, a fifteen-year old black girl who possesses superhuman powers. Eli Franklin is an innocent girl, growing up in a relatively sheltered life, which I found to be highlighted in her positive and optimistic view on how she can change the world and make a difference. I really like how Eli’s uses her positivity to fight the hate, with her initial reveal to the public acting like a kind of healing tonic. In an ideal world, this solution would always prevail, however, the reality is far more complex and Eli soon discovers that fear is infectious and hard to eliminate. I really like how Eli’s wisdom and sense of maturity are a powerful characteristic of her personality. She may be young, but she is wise for her years, and this is reflected in her attitude and actions. I actually found her to be quite relatable, and I enjoyed venturing forth on her journey of personal growth.
I found the story to be relevant, topical and reflective of what is unfolding in the world today. It is is a politically charged, confronting and compelling read, and I believe that Kwanza Osajyefo cleverly handles the narrative, delivering us powerful story that is both immersive and enjoyable to read.
The art by Jennifer Johnson is fresh and has a sense of vibrant energy. For me, her art shines during the action scenes, where Johnson captures the flow and movement of Eli perfectly. I also found this story to be visually diverse, taking us to various landscapes and cities with the scenery often changing. Each of the characters possess uniquely animated faces, which allowed an easy interpretation of the feeling and emotions they are experiencing through their detailed expressions. The colour palette is bright and eye-catching, popping with striking colours throughout the story. There is also really lovely sense of light that is achieved through the colouring, which I found to be quite beautiful and effective.
Overall, I enjoyed this story, finding it to be a highly compelling read. If you’re looking for a story that is politically charged and not afraid to offer a fresh take on the superhero genre, then I recommend giving Black [Af] America’s Sweetheart a go. It’s a pretty excellent read and has gorgeous art to match.
I’m giving this graphic novel 5 out of 5 stars!
CREATIVE TEAM: Kwanza Osajyefo and Jennifer Johnson
PUBLISHER: Black Mask Studios
REVIEWER: Dana Folkard