By Ben Snyder
Antar #1 is an exceptionally adequate comic. Nothing is particularly amazing or noteworthy but it aspires to do, it achieves in moderation. Retelling the legend of Antar, a pre-Islamic warrior poet from Arabia, writer Nnedi Okorafor hits all the necessary beats needed. There is some issue with him using the flashback narrative to tell his story as often times details can be left out, but often times you can piece together the important stuff. However the art and colors by Eric Battle and Jason Scott Jones respectively are simply not on the same level of the writing, which really isn’t saying much considering the overall meh-ness of the former.
My main critique with the story is the style in which it is told. Okorafor uses a flashback framing device that really puts emphasis on Antar’s actions while neglecting a lot of necessary background knowledge. We know very little of his mother who seems like a prominent figure not only in his life, but in others as well. I would have personally loved to see the story told more linearly starting with his mother in Ethiopia. Or even more detail on how his mother got along with her owner’s other wife as that seemed like a shaping dynamic in Antar’s life.
It was fitting how the Saif initiated him into their order by having him kill a lion. It worked because it highlighted how much of a dick this order is and how little everyone thinks of Antar. They were literally throwing him to the lions, but by killing it he proved himself to them. It was a maturing moment as he was instructed to forget about his love/cousin/former life and begin training for the Saif if not overly predictable.
Eric Battle’s art is not overtly offensive but it definitely does leave a lot to be desired. Most scenes are left looking unnecessarily frantic and short on details. Specific scenes such as Antar’s mother being beaten by slavers in the night look fuzzy and blotchy. It also doesn’t help that the panel layouts do little to help the matter. Often times panels intrude on quieter scenes or are haphazardly placed among the page for the sake of shaking it up a bit. It also doesn’t help that the character designs are particularly ugly and even people who I feel are supposed to look pretty look bulbous or extremely overly muscular. One scene in particular is when we see baby Antar and he looks malformed.
Jason Scott Jones’s colors do Battle’s art no favors as his dark overtones accentuate the lack of detail further distorting the figures and images. There are instances where the art and color work somewhat especially in the quieter scenes but due to the hectic nature of this story and specifically chapter, the art and colors are severe letdowns.
Perhaps I’m being overly critical. Antar #1 isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it is passable at what it attempts to do. I am not in love with the art or the story telling framing, but the bones of the story seem intact and deserving of another issue. It might be more of a marathon than a sprint though, testing how long one can bear with these problems.
Antar: The Black Knight #1