All this month I'll be reviewing different comic books by African-American creators, based on submissions from the actual creators of the comic books themselves. Check out the archive to see what books have been spotlighted so far.
Next up today is Ajala: A series of Adventures by Robert Garrett (co-creatorwriter), N. Steven Harris (co-creator/penciler) and Walt Msonza Barna
I mean this as no offense to Robert Garrett, and I think he will completely understand where I'm coming from when I write this, as he WORKS with the guy, ya know? He already knows what I am going to say - N. Steven Harris is crazy good. Like crazy good. Walt Msonza Barna's colors match Harris' pencils well, but what truly inspires me about Harris' work is his sort of two-pronged awesomeness.
First off, he work is incredibly dynamic, as seen in this preview (so not finished) sequence from Ajala Book 3. Such action!
The beginning has good character work, as well, of course, but check out this sequence from later in the book (also sans dialogue - the final book HAS dialogue)...
Look at how great he is at the expressions! Look at how unique each character is! Man, Harris is awesome.
However, like I said at the top, this is no insult to Garrett, as the story behind Ajala is quite good, as well. The concept is that some time in the 1920s in Harlem, a group of vigilantes was formed. Now, overachieving high school student Ajala Storm finds out that her parents were part of the group and so is her teacher, who is also her VIGILANTE teacher! Ajala is so well-developed, especially in her interactions with everybody - she acts one way with her parents, one way with her friends, one with her teacher and one with different friends, however she is always clearly the same basic person.
I also love the way that Garrett and Harris give Ajala some bad guys for Ajala to face AT school, so it is like he's taking high school drama to the umpteenth degree.
Also, Garrett gets in a lot of great stuff about Harlem as a neighborhood in general, and how a small group of people CAN make a difference.
The dynamic between Ajala and her teacher is especially strong. I love how he sort of forces her to be better without being condescending. It's similar to a great scene with her father where he challenges her in her "normal" life, where she takes the possible game-winning shot in a basketball game instead of passing to her open teammates who is a better shooter. He doesn't give her crap, he just asks her to examine the situation and she acknowledges her mistake. Great stuff.
Ajala is a compelling character drama with awesome action scenes. And oh man, that Harris artwork. Daaaaang.
You can buy the latest issue on IndyPlanet here.