Blackjack: Second Bite of the Cobra

Blackjack: Second Bite of the Cobra
Blackjack Second Bite of the Cobra review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dover Books - 978-0-486798-52-3
  • Release date: 2016
  • UPC: 9780486798523
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

Here in the west nearly 150 years of popular publishing – and its spin-off art forms film, radio, TV and especially comics – has generated a legion of legendary (if human-scaled) action adventurers. A succession of steely-eyed, immensely powerful men – and even the occasional woman – have girdled the globe righting wrongs and inspiring millions of dreamers. Although some few had friends, colleagues or assistants of colour, can you think of a single leading man who was black?

That’s rectified in this splendid release from Dover’s superb line of lost and rescued graphic gems, resurrected in a softcover or digital collection to astound and enthral all lovers of epic bravado and red-handed justice, packed with the usual extras and bonus material.

Preceded with a foreword from Joe Illidge and author Alex Simmons’ exhilarating introduction ‘The Past: A Good Time for a Dark Hero’ and bookended by an effusive afterword by agent David Colley, you can experience a world of dangerous extremes.

Simmons is an award-winning African-American author, playwright, comic scripter and educator who has produced innumerable strips, games, shows and art-events all over the world. He’s a passionate advocate for and champion of equality and racial issues. In 1996 he finally fulfilled a childhood dream by creating a black character as an equal to and worthy of the fictional meta-kingdom of all his childhood heroes, perfectly realised by Joe Bennett. Following a cruelly recognisable usual pattern, however, the saga of Arron Day, AKA Blackjack proved to be a monster hit everywhere… except America.

Blackjack adapted to tough times in the comic biz by moving online as both prose and comics forms and through a serial in “Blaxploitation” magazine Bad AzzMofo. In 2001, there was even an audio adventure – Blackjack: Retribution – recorded in front of a live audience at the Museum of TV and Radio in New York City.

Now, with the first epic extravaganza compiled into one scorching saga, action fans have a chance for another bite of the cherry. During the Great War, Matthew “Mad Dog” Day found fame and a little prosperity as a soldier-of-fortune fighting all over the world; attaining the respect and acclaim no North Carolina “negro” could have by staying in America. Quotes added to avoid complaints.

One particularly savage commission from a thankless Egyptian government sent him into the Sahara and pitted him and his fellow mercenaries against diabolical, nigh-messianic rebel Farouk Tea a la Af’a, known to insurgents everywhere as the Cobra. It failed. Back in Cairo days later, the foreign survivors were publicly castigated by an ungrateful populace, but Mad Dog’s young son Arron knew who was truly to blame, and swore one day he would meet the Cobra.

Years passed and in 1923 the boy’s parents were murdered by assassins in Spain. By 1935 Arron has surpassed his father by way of his own martial talents. He’s gripped by a keen sense of justice and is never one to shy away from conflict or confrontation.

And so begins a spectacular, ferociously gripping duel that moves to the desert as Blackjack hunts for the man who shamed his father – and might well have had him killed. As Blackjack blazes his way across the war-torn region to meet his promised nemesis he encounters corrupt rulers, suspect capitalists hungry for the region’s as yet untapped riches, and gangs of thugs.

As spectacular as Lawrence of Arabia, as fast-paced as The Mummy (1999) and as satisfyingly suspenseful as Hidalgo, this is pure pulp experience no lover of the genre should miss.