I really enjoyed Southside Nefertiti, the indie comic created by Mike Sales (AKA M Torez), but when it came to writing this review of issues one through three, I had a hard time because I became very self-conscious of my own whiteness, second guessing my thoughts on it and asking myself, “Is that an ignorant white liberal (IWL) thing to say?”
It’s not like I’ve never seen a black person, or other person of color, in a comic book. But, this is the first time I’ve seen black characters in a comic book who are culturally black.
The hero of Southside Nefertiti is Nefertiti Jones, a black single mom who works two jobs (not including the superhero gig), has strong ties to her community and struggles with integrating her superhero status into her everyday life.
Southside Nefertiti is a great concept that starts out rough in execution, but gets better as it goes along. In issue one I was really having a hard time following the dialogue because of it’s layout in relation to the panels. The artwork, while it got the story across, felt unfinished and not quite up to the demands of the story, and was difficult to read in some places.
Issues two and three were drawn by two different artists and each one brings something different to the story. Issue two takes an emotional turn, focusing on the build up to the coming g-crew war and Nefertiti’s inner struggle with being a superhero when sometimes she just wants to be Lil’ Neefy, living her life and being a mom to her son. Issue three is more action oriented, showing the effects of Headrock, a new drug that temporarily gives the user superpowers, only to burn her up from the inside out. It’s very nasty.
I like that Nefertiti is a superhero to her community. She knows the people she helps – knows the people she has to take down. She knows their moms. She knows their aunts. The issues she tackles, such as the return of g-crews and the introduction of the new street drug, Headrock, are relevant to her community, rather than galactic threats that doom life as we know it. In that way, she’s a much more personal kind of superhero.
I like that the characters speak in urban slang (was that IWL of me?) rather than talking like white people, or worse, the way white people think characters of color would talk. There were time while reading that I felt like an outsider looking in, and was reminded of The Wire (best show ever), wherein I didn’t always get the dialogue, but could still follow the action and arc. The language is genuine to who the characters are and to their experience.
Where Southside Nefertiti really succeeds is in the complexity and depth of the characters and their relationships. Nefertiti’s single motherhood brings an added layer to her character and her reasons for her actions. Her partner, Brian, is a cop, but also has a history as a car thief and is now put in the position of policing people he used to run with on the streets. Nefertiti and Brian are good friends, but there is clearly sexual tension and some gender conflict between the two.
Lately when I’m at the comic shop, there is less and less that interests me. I’m tired of the registration act, I don’t care about the “No more mutants” thing and the “everyone’s a Skrull!” thing is just irritating. I’m tired of mainstream comics resorting to reader exploitation and just want something with a good story and compelling characters that is also challenging. Southside Nefertiti fills that need.
You’ve got to buy this comic.
You can buy Southside Nefertiti online from Type Illy Press.
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