Note: This review might contain spoilers. Please read at your own risk.
Over the past few years, I find myself reading more and more indie comic books. For my first comic book review here at GA.net, an indie book that caught my interest.
In 2017, readers were introduced to the world of Black from creators Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith3, and Jamal Igle, published through Black Mask Studio. In the Black universe, people with special abilities exist, but these abilities only manifested in black people. Eventually, the team re-branded the universe under the title of Black [AF].
Since then, the team and publisher have released several volumes of the series, bringing in guest creators to present new stories. This happened in 2018, when the studio brought in star writer Vita Ayala to join artist Liana Kangas to present Black [AF]: Devil’s Dye. As a big fan of Vita Ayala, I put an order in to get a copy of the trade paperback the studio released in January, covering issues #1-4.
Devil’s Dye continues Black [AF]’s story of a universe of super-powered black people, but introduces a new facet – drugs. They call the drug Vanta. Vanta’s composition provides a high sense of euphoria that rivals ecstasy, without all of the lows. There’s one thing, however. The drug causes the powered-beings’ abilities to go into overdrive, causing them to act in an erratic and violent manner.
The Project, an hidden force of people with abilities, sends in Selina, also known as Indigo, to investigate and to put an end to the dangerous drug. They team her with ex-police detective Ellen Waters and X, and together they set out to solve the mystery behind Vanta. The endgame, to put the drug epidemic to an end.
In their trek to discover the truth behind Vanta and how it affects powered beings, they learn some interesting things, particularly about Indigo’s past. In the end, they learn Indigo’s past life has a direct connection to the drug’s existence.
Devil’s Dye is my first experience with the Black [AF] universe. I picked up the book as a fan of Vita Ayala after following them on works such as Livewire for Valiant and James Bond for Dynamite Entertainment. While those two examples were exceptional, others from them have been hit or miss. Fortunately, for this reader, Devil’s Dye is a hit. While I am not familiar with the events of the previous volumes, I am familiar enough to see that Ayala did their due diligence in working off of the plot from Osajyefo, creating a story that quickly draws the reader in.
The low point of this trade, unfortunately, is the art. Let me be clear, the art from Liana Kangas is not bad. It truly isn’t. It is a style I am seeing more and more in the genre. Obviously, it’s a style of drawing that has caught on, especially in the indies. On the other hand, as someone who has followed comic books for a long time, I am more of a traditionalist and prefer art as such. The colors, however, are truly on point and fit well with Kangas’ pencils.
I await to see if Ayala will bring us the conclusion to Indigo’s story. Will she be able to get Dr. Blank out of her head enough to apprehend her and put an end to the Vanta epidemic and turn the tides of an already sticky situation for the powered people of color who are becoming more and more dangerous in the eyes of others, including the government.