Review by Frank Plowright
Journey back to the 1970s, when Black Dynamite just wants to kick back with his kung-fu practice, but those threats to his neighbourhood keep turning up, starting with Too Swole, pimp gorilla. That’s one sucker easily dealt with, but what’s Black Dynamite going to do when Alex Haley, renowned author of Roots, turns up in the hood to point out how BD’s become the problem, not the solution? With everyone wanting to take him down, the area’s being destroyed.
There’s a cohesive case to be made for the righteous loners of 1970s Blaxploitation movies begetting cinema’s 1990s action heroes, also often operating in urban environments, and the 2009 Black Dynamite film reflected that back. It was a smart movie, laying the template for this to be a smart graphic novel, picking up where the film ended. It’s a multi-level parody, down to pages being printed off-register, resembling the shoddy printing on some 1970s comics. So how does Brian Ash top the film’s smackdown of Richard Nixon in the White House? By having him take on the organisation controlling the world from behind the scenes. Can he put a stop to that?
Well, yes, but in a rambling and padded way. There are some good jokes, the cameo from Alex Haley and the star-studded sports opening to the final chapter being among them, the action parody sequences slot in well, and the brief self-reflection also hits the spot. So, silly where that’s intended, and kung-fu well served up, but it’s all too easy and too obvious. The jokes should be sharper, and there should be more bang for the buck. This can be compared to the comedy value of the first Blackadder series, whereas the potential is there to be Blackadder Goes Forth.
Artistic inconsistency doesn’t help either. Ronald Wimberly’s a better artist than shown by a largely uninspiring opening chapter, Marcelo Ferreira (sample page) aims for Neal Adams, but can’t manage the graphic clarity, and Jun Lofamia’s concentration on accurate likenesses is at the cost of stiffness.
We’re left with an okay read, but not much thought and application would have been required to make it a whole lot better.