Featured Review -July
I’m still crafting my massive, month-spanning, review for July, but this gem just begged for a spotlight. So, I pulled it from the forthcoming post and sent it up early just to make sure it had proper room to breath.
-Strange Fruit #1
I’m kicking myself for not immediately recognizing the lynching reference made by this book’s title. Strange Fruit is about race relations in the Jim Crow era south, a time in which outright hostile and violent racism was the norm, and it’s a serious and important backdrop for any story. This is why I was so confused by the fantastical element that was introduced into the story at the end of this book.
I’m going to spoil things a bit those who haven’t read the first issue. So, skip this review completely if you want to avoid spoilers.
At the end of issue #1, a spaceman drops from the sky and saves one of our characters from being lynched by a local chapter of the KKK. The interdiction of an alien plays out like a scene from a superhero comic and distracts from the seriousness of the story. It turns what could have been an impactful study of our country’s dark past into a backdrop for some kind of sci-fi fantasy tale.
At best, the inclusion of an alien who looks like an African Adonis has a real ‘Brother from Another Planet’ kind of feel to it. At worst, it smacks of ‘Inglorious Basterds’ style wish fulfillment and pseudo-history.
The difference between this story and ‘Brother’, however, is that the late 70’s / early 80’s era New York City explored in that movie was used to shine a light on current social injustices that were not widely explored at the time. Mainstream audiences at the time either weren’t aware,or were willfully ignorant of the depths of racism that still existed. Thus, when an alien from another planet chose to camouflage himself as a Black American in order to blend in with humanity, then discovered that he did anything but blend in due to racial prejudices, it came as a shock and a lesson to the audience. My question for Strange Fruit is, what exactly are we going to learn about the oppression of Jim Crow era Mississippi that we didn’t already know? It was a terrible time. We all know this. How does adding an alien into the mix change our understanding of the era?
I’m really going to keep a critical eye on this series to see what questions it both poses and answers because the backdrop they’ve chosen for their story is not one that should be used lightly or fruitlessly. Score: It better pay off big.