IDW’s oft-late series Black Dynamite had a great first couple of issues, with no small amount of fun and an impressive start to a series that could be truly great if it sticks with the tone and delivery of the movie. Unfortunately, in its third issue, I’m starting to get the feeling that this book may be trying to do too much without knowing what it wants to be. The plot of issue three sees Black Dynamite officially joined up with the militarized insurgency created to bring down “The Man,” which, as it turned out last issue, is a real clandestine group of mostly white people called (somewhat expectedly) The Illuminati. His first mission is what takes the bulk of story this issue, as Dynamite is called in to defend Tibet’s Mount Rashie against some rather strange goings-on.
Unfortunately, the mountain, as well as the Constantine Monks that call it home, sit on a massive deposit of silicon, which The Illuminati wants so they can create and distribute personal computers to the global citizenry and, under the veil of offering them endless entertainment options, track and control them. Sound familiar? If not, look it up on your smartphone. I’ll wait until you get the joke.
Not liking the sound of that, Black Dynamite leaps into action and, in short order, helps the pacifist monks defeat The Illuminati’s gang of kung fu mutant animals, not by quickly instructing them in the quiet art of karate, but instead by giving them a switchblade, a couple of big rocks and some boiling water, and then pointing them at the enemy.
It’s pretty random, not because the monks very quickly (after their surprisingly easy victory) want to go smoke dope and bang the shit out of hookers, but because the creators missed a beat in not giving us even a one-page spread of a ridiculous training montage. I mean, how is that even possible in a kung fu movie adaptation?
Anyway, that’s basically ballgame: Black Dynamite teams up with a bunch of useless, horny monks to kill a handful of really shitty mutants in Tibet. That sounds great, but it was really just okay. My biggest problem is that it completely lacked the charm of the series’ first two issues (let alone the franchise as a whole), despite some of the book’s visual aesthetics, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Ash (who authors the book this time without co-writer Yassir Lester) seems determined to transform this story into one that is more acceptable for comic books - hence the Swamp Thing Animated Series-style mutants - but I really don’t think you need that over-the-top approach to make a book like this work; in fact, that can ruin it. Just look at what happened to the Buffy books when they tried to make everyone into goddamn superheroes.
Look, the formula for Black Dynamite is already there - clever Blaxploitation parody - and this softly-revolving creative team has proven it can do a fun, pretty great little job in two issues by adapting it more faithfully to the source material, while tempering it from tumbling completely into ridiculousness. Unfortunately, I think this issue may have jumped the (mutant) shark in that regard.
Apart from some bouts with perspective, I thought Marcelo Ferreira did another fine, pretty consistent job this time. The look of his Black Dynamite is on-point and you can tell he was having a swell time with the mutants. Again, though, his training montage would have been glorious, especially in the washed-out colors Jim Ringuet brings to many of these pages. It’s a cool trick, but isn’t really consistent enough, or at least it gets lost in some of his thicker, darker shades, and I really wish it wouldn’t. It gives this title some atmospheric character that sets it apart from others and once again taps into what is so important to the humor of the Black Dynamite pastiche.
For instance, probably the best part about this whole book is a great nod to the original Black Dynamite film, in which Michael Jai White doesn’t just play the Black Dynamite character, he plays All-Star running back, Farrante Jones, who is the one playing Black Dynamite. It’s Blaxploitatinception!
The mid-comic advertisement is for what looks like a velvet oil painting of Farrante Jones sitting on a roaring tiger somewhere near Saturn with the brightly-lit phrase “Space Cats” resting like a neon-steel beacon at the poster’s bottom. As the advertorial touts, it is “the first combination science fiction/exotic animal poster of a major sports figure in America,” and will be “cherished by your family for generations to come.”
See? That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about, but it shouldn’t be relegated to the sidelines! It should take prime positioning as the tone throughout the main book. If the creative team can tap that vein, Black Dynamite will again become the hilarious beast it was always meant to be, rather than some mutant freak with tampered DNA.
Writer: Brian Ash Artist: Marcelo Ferreira Colorist: Jim Ringuet Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $4.99 Release Date: 7/9/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital