Strange Fruit #1
Writers:J.G. Jones and Mark Waid
Artist: J.G. Jones
Letterer Deron Bennett
Publisher Boom! Studios
Strange Fruit # 1 deals with racism during the 1920s. The title of the comic makes reference to a famous Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit”, which dealt with the lynching and death of blacks. On that note, Strange Fruit dives straight into racism and tension head first. Jones and Waid produce a strong premise, but weak writing. The writing suffers from a lack of in depth characterization for the characters and a continuous jumping about in the plot. However, the artwork from Jones is priceless in its exquisiteness and attention to detail. The comic is issue one of four and leaves a lot of space to grow.
The story opens in 1927 Chatterlee, Mississippi. A great trouble faces Chatterlee as the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 is coming, and levees need to be built to protect the town. The subject of who assists in the levee making leaves of the underpaid black citizens doing the work. The comic follows around different characters from KKK members, a government official, and a black worker. The main character becomes Sonny, an African American worker, who is accused of stealing at a local store. Sonny rejects the accusation of thief, but soon finds the KKK on his trail. It is through a stranger Sonny is saved.
Jones and Waid lay down the foundation for an interesting series about human relationships and struggles with a dash of the other worldly in the mix. The comic could also lead to some thought provoking realizations about race relations during the 1920s. However, the conflict between the citizens of Chatterlee draws out some problems in the writing. Moments spent with characters are brief and fleeting, the reader does not get to know everyone thoroughly. The reader hardly even gets to know Sonny. Jones and Waid may give more about the characters once the story unfolds properly in future issues. But, right now, the writing shows a lot of people, but hardly lets the audience know about their motivations and background.
Strange Fruit # 1 is not a comic for everyone. It is true the artwork is beautiful, and Jones ensures each frame is well-colored and thought out. The writing, however, suffers from wanting to be everywhere at once and appears to focus on nowhere. The more difficult topics of race relations and struggles are better left for other comics. Strange Fruit # 1 may be lacking the level of sensitivity and critical thought needed for some readers on the subjects. Still the comic and story arc are in their infancy, and it would be generous to grant it more time.