Review: Power Lines #1

Not long ago I had a day off and decided to catch an afternoon matinee. I bought my popcorn and candy, settled into a seat in the center of the theatre and waited while the previews played. About thirty seconds or so into the opening credits it dawned on me that the movie on the screen was not the film whose name was displayed on my ticket stub and I had somehow managed to walk into the wrong theatre. As you can imagine I was extremely embarrassed and not wanting to cause a scene or admit my idiocy I decided that the best course of action was to do nothing. Just stay seated and ride it out. Now as stupid as that sounds I mention it because the sensation I felt in that moment is identical to reading Power Lines #1. Admittedly it took longer than the thirty seconds previously mentioned to make the determination but nevertheless the ensuing emotions were identical; ultimately Power Lines is not what I thought it was going to be. Both the synopsis and the cover of the issue tease a satirical, racially-infused superhero origin story about a young Black man from the Hood given ancient super powers BUT they only work in upscale, White-suburban neighbourhoods – hilarious, right? Wrong. None of these aspects are even broached in the first issue. Instead we are given a drawn out history lesson of the American plains Indians, an ominous figure in a black cloak making random creepy appearances, and a very confusing nude animal slaughter/ritual. This all happening simultaneously while four young wannabe gangbangers make their way through suburbia ‘throwin' up’ graffiti tags – not quite the goofball hero story it presents itself as on the marquee.

Power-Lines-#1-1Now before I go too far and proclaim there's nothing funny about Power Lines, I have to address one particularly special moment for me: there’s a tier about halfway through the book that shows all four guys winding through the neighbourhood making their tags, with no dialogue on the page but the bold lettered lyrics of Swisha T winding down the panels. Now who’s Swisha T you ask? Well, long before Drake and The Weeknd came to be there was a god-awful Canadian hip-hop crew called Swollen Members (I totally had their CD). Swollen Members was co-founded by a guy named Madchild (a very poor, poor man’s ‘Canadian version’ of Slim Shady) and it was Madchild who in turn helped launch Swisha T’s music career. Now I make a point of drawing this out because I hope it illustrates just how fucking crazy it is that Jimmie Robinson would have the lyrics of a D-List-White-Canadian hip-hop artist in his comic book! How the hell did Robinson even hear of him - I live in the same Province and I had never even heard of him? I have to believe it’s a joke but I don’t get the punchline? Or who knows, maybe Jimmie Robinson is just a Swisha fan?

While we’re on the topic of the creator, the writer, the artist, the letterer, and the colourist (see where I’m going with this?) all of whom are Jimmie Robinson, I feel like this just has to be said: pick a lane Jimmie. The best comics are collaborative processes and bringing in another pair of hands would not only help to lighten the workload for Robinson but it would also let him focus his talents on a single aspect of Power Lines instead of stretching himself thin by trying to control every part of the creative process. Someone like Jordie Bellaire for example could really do wonders with Robinson’s art; make it feel more warm and appealing and less like a Highlights magazine page scribbled over by your younger brother.

It may not sound like it but I do have hope for Power Lines in the coming issues. I have a feeling that something larger may be afoot and perhaps I am just too close at the moment to see what is right in front of my face. There is a good foundation being laid but Robinson has a long way to go to make up for what was a somewhat dismal first issue. I’ll be eager to see if any adjustments or tweaks are made as he continues onward.

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Power Lines #1 Writer/Artist: Jimmie Robinson Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 3/30/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital