By Ben Boruff
I have been a fan of Rosarium Publishing for quite some time. The indie publisher self-identifies as a "fledgling publisher specializing in speculative fiction, comics, and a touch of crime fiction—all with a multicultural flair," and its impressive team of authors and artists have created a variety of boundary-pushing comics, including Ted Lange IV's Warp Zone and a comic book anthology called APB: Artists against Police Brutality. Rosarium Publishing's mission is an important one. Like a balloon tied to a rock, comic culture is rising toward an established place in the critic-molded literary zeitgeist, but it can only rise so far without freeing itself from some of its baser habits, such as casually neglecting to tell a wide variety of stories. Publishers like Rosarium Publishing guide comic culture toward a richer, more eclectic future, and compelling comics like Super Sikh offer hope that we will get there soon.
Super Sikh is about the adventures of Deep Singh, a Bond-like Sikh secret agent who loves Elvis Presley and hates injustice. As a character, Deep Singh is refreshingly multifaceted. In the issue's opening pages, Deep enjoys the rockabilly riffs of "Blue Suede Shoes" after shooting a rocket at a Taliban leader. In regard to characterization, co-creators Eileen Kaur Alden and Supreet Singh Manchanda seem to favor range over depth. Readers are introduced to a number of Deep's character traits in this issue, but few of those character traits are explored thoroughly. That said, seeing Deep Singh slide down a Futurama-esque glass tube to visit his gadget-testing cousin Preeti in an "underground secret facility"—ably rendered by artist Amit Tayal—minimizes the narrative's need to be particularly subtle, so most readers will feel comfortable with the relative superficiality of the comic's protagonist in this first issue. After all, this issue portrays Deep Singh as a Titan among aggressively ignorant men, not a flawed antihero.
At times, the plot is a bit simplistic, toeing the line between a concise, socially relevant story arc and a lengthy political cartoon—some bits of exposition are tossed at the reader like unwanted Mario Kart Banana Peels (tactfully yet somewhat grudgingly)—but the quick pace of the overall story allows readers to ignore most narrative peculiarities. Like Elvis, Deep Singh is a superstar, and the first issue of Super Sikh spends several pages emphasizing this one trait (and ignoring others). Because of this somewhat single-minded approach to exposition, readers are able to enjoy the action-adventure elements of the story without having to dissect too many emotional nuances. Again, the terseness works.
In fact, despite the subject matter of the comic's early pages, most of this issue offers a somewhat lighthearted approach to international espionage—until the issue's last few panels. At the end of the issue, Super Sikh's creators offer a sharp social commentary in the form of a troubling (though sadly not surprising) bias-fueled obstacle that Deep Singh must face. This is an important moment. On the comic's website, its creators state that they "wanted Deep Singh to uphold his Sikh values even while he is living in a modern world with all of its complexity."
I imagine "complexity" is a euphemism for bigotry and ignorance.
Our world has a hell of a lot of "complexity."
Deep Singh will likely face many obstacles in future issues. And I'll be rooting for him as he overcomes each one.
Super Sikh #1
Creators: Eileen Kaur Alden and Supreet Singh Manchanda
Artist: Amit Tayal
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing