Black superheroes, surreal art and occult investigators: the past week’s books (#SFWApro)

As a fan of Christopher Priest’s short-lived series The Crew, I’d hoped BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW: We Are the Streets by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Yona Harvey and Jackson Guice would be a sequel, but no (though it does reference the earlier book’s setting of “Little Mogadishu”). Instead it involves T’Challa, Misty Knight, Luke Cage, Storm and the Aborigine mutant Manifold (whose presence felt forced at times) investigating the murder of Ezra Keith, black activist and former leader of a metahuman team that protected Harlem in the 1950s. Ezra’s death leads to a conspiracy involving police brutality, a new force of Robocops and a Hydra-backed gentrification scheme, but as Marvel canceled the book, none of it seems likely to come to fruition. Coates does a good job tackling issues of police brutality and gentrification, and telling a good story while he does it, but the attempt to paint a bigger picture involving the worldwide struggle against imperialism felt strained. Still, I’d have liked to see more of this.

BLACK: Chapter One by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3 and Jamal Igle tackles similar issues but being indy, gets way more radical: teen Kareem Jenkins is fatally shot by police, recovers and learns he’s metahuman — something only possible for blacks, which explains the past 500 years of white oppression. Now he’s part of the resistance, but should their goal be hiding from the powers that be or risking stirring up trouble by fighting back? I liked this, but some of the fight scenes are a confused mess, with way too many metas to keep track of (and most of them given no personality). It’s also frustrating that we get no backstory on the metahumans working for the government to keep their own people down — do they have some moral justification, or are they just selling out for the money? Hopefully chapter two will get into that.

MAGRITTE by Sarah Whitfield is a coffee-table book introducing us to René Magritte’s world of boulders, bowler-hatted men, paintings that block the scenery they capture, and pipes that are not pipes (and Titanic Days, the in-your-face rape imagery seen here). The text emphasizes that Magritte’s career suffered because he never had the itch for self promotion other surrealists (e.g., Dali) did, that the titles of the paintings were usually picked by others after the fact and that Magritte frequently resisted assigning meaning to his work, believing the real punch came from a lack of meaning. Good if you like his work, which I certainly do.

WITCH HOUSE was a 1940s horror novel by Evangeline Walton in which an occultist/psychiatrist travels to the eponymous New England manse to save a child allegedly haunted by her evil ancestors. Very much in the older tradition of psychic detectives, and very talky, with lectures on psychic powers and spiritual journeys outweighing the undeniably creepy scenes where things actually happen. Case in point, the protagonist predicts the death of one character will create a surge of dark powers swooping in … but they don’t. I liked it, but probably more than it deserved.

All rights to Titanic Days image remain with current holder.


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