Black AF: America's Sweetheart Review: Beautiful, Fresh, and Stalwart Commentary

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Eli Franklin is a girl from Helena, Montana. She was adopted by a nice family who gave her a good life. She is a black girl being raised by a white family, but her family doesn't treat her poorly. The only real quirk is that she has superpowers. She is immensely powerful; she can fly, run at super speeds, is incredibly strong, and is effectively invincible.

She soon discovers that she's not the only one with superpowers, and only black people are manifesting these abilities. With this information out in the open, she becomes Good Girl, America's first superhero.

Black AF: America's Sweetheart cover by Sho Murase
Black AF: America's Sweetheart cover by Sho Murase

There's a lot to unpack from this comic. It covers a lot of topics and touches on many sensitive subjects.

It does it with an optimism and joy that is quite uncanny given the heavier subject matters therein, and it's impossible to not smile a lot while reading Black AF.

Eli Franklin is a charming and uplifting character. She has infectious optimism and altruism. When she becomes Good Girl, she takes to helping people naturally. She stops crime, helps people caught in disasters, and does everything she can to be a boon to society.

This is contrasted by the cynicism common in the media and politics. Eli's father discovers her superhero-ing, and government oversight is forced upon her activities. Before long, outlets try to assign ulterior motives to Eli. Rumors abound over the type of people she "prefers" to save. Plus, groups begin to push for legislation for all the super-powered black people.

This culminates in the revelations of her origins and the discover of a person connected to where she came from.

Themes of prejudice and the importance of how mass media can frame an issue are on the forefront of the ethos of Black AF. As previously stated, people are wary that black people are manifesting superpowers. The masses turn on Good Girl very quickly despite how her demeanor and every part of her image is designed to make her trustworthy. Her costume is Superman-by-way-of-Captain America.

The primary antagonist to the piece brings the issue of double-consciousness to the forefront. For the uninitiated (non-English, Sociology, or African-American studies majors), "double-consciousness" is the phenomenon where African-Americans must perceive themselves as themselves and how white people perceive them to survive in white-dominated American society. It can also be described as looking at one's self through a veiled mirror. In relation to Good Girl, she must contend with how she sees herself as well as how wider society perceives her to continue as a superhero. It's really cool to see a comic tackle this, even if straight, white, cis male me doesn't know it feels personally.

Black AF: America's Sweetheart art by Jennifer Johnson. Designed by Tim Smith III
Black AF: America's Sweetheart art by Jennifer Johnson. Designed by Tim Smith III

There is some information that would really help with the contextualization that will likely be explained in later installments. A lot is said of an event called "Negromuerte" that is never explained. Plus, when the revelations start coming down about Eli's origins, the "why's" of it all are never explained.

Tim Smith III's designs are very creative and play off of established superhero costume conventions well. Eli's costume especially looks great. Jennifer Johnson's art brings it all together in a gorgeous and airy style with bright and dazzling colors. The comic is quite beautiful overall.

Black AF: America's Sweetheart art by Jennifer Johnson. Designed by Tim Smith III
Black AF: America's Sweetheart art by Jennifer Johnson. Designed by Tim Smith III

Plus, there is an extended fight towards the ending which is given the time and weight Black AF deserves. Many mainstream superhero comics seem to forget how cool superpowers can really be on the page. Black AF doesn't and capitalizes on all of Good Girl's powers with some amazing action panels.

Kwanza Osajyefo brings us an endearing and compelling tale of a black superhero just trying to do the right thing with Black AF. With a lovable protagonist, an interesting premise with some intriguing observations, and an overall high-energy and optimistic plot, Osajyefo's comic comes together beautifully. Johnson and Smith III's art is beautiful to boot, and this comic definitely gets a recommendation. Give it a read.

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About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.