Comics in Color week 5: Teenage Wasteland edition

A comic review article by: Ra'Chaun Rogers

Hey folks and welcome once again to the show that never ends. This week I have two comics which I hope will catch your eye and your sense of nostalgia wiith stories about super-secret teenage spies and bullied high schoolers with god like powers. Prepare for action, adventure and a whole lotta angst this week.

Ajala #1

(Robert Garrett / N. Steven Harris / Beni Olea / Brian McGee)

 3.5 stars

Ajala is the story of a teenage girl who was drafted into the CSC, or Community Spirit Center, after discovering her mother's involvement in the organization.

The CSC trains special operatives to uphold the protection, prosperity and growth of low-income neighborhoods, mainly where people of color are concerned. After carelessness during a routine patrol leads her to get a black eye, Ajala attempts to convince her parents on the virtues of not going to school with a shiner. After losing that battle, she heads to school sporting a nice pair of Ray-Bans as rumors fly about what actually happened to her. We meet several of her friends just as they are all confronted by two young ladies who may prove to be major or minor foils, based on events that happen just before the issue ends.

The casual tone of this comic made it an easy and enjoyable read from Robert Garrett. Ajala's thoughts,communicated as conversations with her parents and as her narration during the fight were smooth and organic. Our girl has personality in spades,  which I why I was a bit let down that very little happened in this issue. It feels more like a primer than a full first issue. I would have loved to see more of Ajala's skills and possibly some of the larger threats that the CSC as a whole might face. If there had been more of that,  this would've felt like a fuller issue.

N. Steven Harris' art, as always, is superb -- with great, polished linework befitting of this veteran artist. Olea and McGee do a great job of creating beautiful color tones, which add a bright quality without being loud and off putting. I really appreciated the organic quality of storytelling and dialogue in this issue, I believed that Ajala was a teenage girl going through the stages of life while attempting to honor her mother's legacy.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of our plucky heroine. You can pick up this comic in digital format here or in print here.

Route 3

(Robert Jeffery II /  Sean Damien Hill / Ann Siri / Khari J. Samson)


Being a nerd in high school is never looked well upon, especially if you're a black teenager who is expected to be cool, stylish and charming. Sean Anderson is one such teen. Along with being mocked, Sean also has to deal with recent passing of his mother, who was the only person who actually embraced his love of nerd culture. Now living with his stern father and confrontational older brother, Sean has adopted apathy as a defense mechanism. This threatens to alienate him from even his best friend Ricardo, but also seems to afford him a date with the equally nerdy Samantha.

Sean, however, has a strange destiny -- one illustrated in the opening pages of Route 3 -- a destiny to be wrought with power and violence. All of this starts when a hit is placed on his head for reasons unknown -- at least for the moment -- but those reasons will nonetheless change the face of his world indefinitely.

I enjoyed a number of things about this comic, mainly the issue of nerdiness or awkwardness and its opposition to the idea of what is considered black behavior. It also resonates with me on the issues of losing a parent early as I myself recently lost my father, and can relate to Sean's apathy toward the world and anger at his own feelings towards the event.

The art, while leaving something to be desired, captures expression expertly. I can see the anger and anguish in Sean's face when he talks to Ricardo about losing his mother, I believe it. So even though this is not Marvel Now level art but it does a good job of storytelling.

What I would have like to see more of is how Sean's peers react to him directly as opposed to indirectly as concerns his personality. I want more of this Sean Anderson who seems like a better version of Miles Morales -- in that his personality seems more developed in one issue that Miles' is in three years--  and heir to Virgil Hawkins aka Static in terms of mannerism.

You can pick up your copy here. 

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