Month of African-American Comics - Life or Death #1

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. A quick note - since this month is so relatively short, I'll be featuring an extra comic every week, for a total of 32 comics spotlighted! Here is a list of all the comics spotlighted so far!

Today we take a look at Frank B. Goodin, II's Life or Death #1, drawn by Youmin Park.

Goodin is a filmmaker who originally conceived the story of Life or Death as a film, but eventually decided to do it instead as his very first graphic novel (split into five parts). Only the first part has been released (although as I understand it, the final four parts are due out relatively soon).

The story follows our main character, Caleb, through a non-chronological story that opens with a devastating act of violence before backtracking to see what decisions led to that act of violence. Goodin compares the story to David Simon's The Wire, only with an emphasis on spirituality that was missing from The Wire.

Spirituality is a major focus in this work, as see Caleb struggle with the decisions that he has made in his life and see him debating whether it is not too late to make a dramatic change in his life (although, of course, even if he manages to make this change, will that change result in harrowing tragedy for everyone he holds most dear?).

Here is a sequence where Caleb is assigned a particularly dangerous partner of his boss while on an assignment. Caleb's thoughts turn to the spiritual...

Goodin has used the non-chronological format really well, as the flashbacks in the story give us some great background on our lead characters. One of my favorite scenes comes in the earliest scene, timeline-wise (it is in the middle of the comic itself), where Caleb learns a valuable lesson when a top gangster offers him a deal involving a trick shot. The message is - "You lose when you get too fancy."

Youmin Park is a South Korean artist currently living in South Africa. She does powerful work, especially on the facial expressions of the characters - she captures emotion really well.

For a new creator to the form, Goodin has adapted quite well, but I suppose a lot of that has to do with having a great story to tell - he has one and it was a born transition into the world of comics.

Check out the website for the comic here to see how to purchase a digital and/or print copy of the first book in the series.

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