I’m going really old school again, with this retro review. 1993, when a collective of Black creators formed the ANIA imprint to publish their own comic books featuring new Black superheroes. I’ve already reviewed one of the first comics to come out on this imprint, ORIGINAL MAN, and here is another one.
EBONY WARRIOR #1 was published in “APRIL-MAY 1993” (according to the inside credits), Eric Griffin is listed as creator-writer, Steven X Routhier is co-plotter-artist, and Suzanne Little is the editor. The main story is 21 pages long, and tells the origin story of our hero, as well as introduces the main characters of the series. The setting is a city called Yorktown, but it’s clearly not the famous city of Yorktown in Virginia, but the actual state the city is in is not mentioned. But it appears to be a typical “crime-infested urban city” that’s common to these types of comic-books. A rich White businessman named Alexander Rothschild III controls all legal and illegal imports in the city, with the local government and police under his thumb. Detective Edwards (no first name given) is the only policeman in the city who is determined to find a way to expose and arrest Rothschild, and it’s implied that this is a personal vendetta to him due to Rothschild being responsible for some tragedy involving Edwards’ son. Having been warned by his superior officer to stop investigating Rothschild, Detective Edwards thinks about how he needs some kind of secret ally to help him take the man down.
Out lead is Komal Jackson, through this issue we learn that he was raised in Yorktown, then left and got an engineering degree from Tuskegee University. Despite being offered high-paying jobs at multiple Fortune 500 companies after he graduated, Komal instead returned to Yorktown, and works in his father’s Afrocentric bookstore (we learn that Komal’s mother was killed, presumably due to some street crime, years earlier). Komal also volunteers at a local community center, teaching math, science, and reading to kids. A local writer, Ms. Reynolds (no first name given) comes to Komal’s apartment to interview him, where he makes it clear that his main priority is cleaning up the community and uplifting the Black race in general, more so than just making money. But Komal is frustrated at his lack of progress.
That night, as a storm brews, Komal is home watching the news and seeing reports about crime, and he finally decides to act on a plan that he earlier said he’d been planning for “a long time.” He puts on a costume and takes to the streets. In short order we see him beat down a drug dealer, then save a woman from being raped, and then he happens upon Detective Edwards, who is being assaulted by a bunch of gang members, on the orders of Rothschild, and saves him. The next day Rothschild reads the newspaper with a headline about the “Ebony Warrior.”
First, let me get this out of the way and say that the artwork is pretty bad. I’ve looked a little, and have been unable to find any of the creative team online, so I don’t know what they’re doing today or if Steven X Routhier has continued as an artist, but he was simply not ready for professional interior art at this time in his life.
The writing is a little better, the basic story premise is solid if not remarkably original. It’s a standard Costumed Vigilante Vows To Clean Up The Streets tale. From the way Komal was described as an engineering genius, I assumed that his costume would have some high-tech weaponry and equipment that he invented installed in it, but that doesn’t appear to be the case when we see him in action, he’s just a skilled fighter who takes down the bad guys with his fists (and feet). The main noticeable problem is the dialog. Eric Griffin writers most of the people talking in strict perfect English, in a way that people just don’t speak in real life. It’s distracting while reading it, as it just doesn’t sound natural.. There are also a few punctuation errors scattered throughout. Like with Mr. Routhier, I don’t know if Mr. Griffin has continued writing anything since this series, but he definitely showed potential back then. The premise of the comic is decent enough that with a few tweaks to the writing and a much better artist, this could have been a very good comic. As is, it’s mostly forgettable.
Speaking of forgettable, I was about to finish the post when I realized I forgot to write about the 5-page backup story that is included in this issue. It’s called TURNER, and is written by Eric Griffin and drawn by “Mishindo.I”, whom I presume is Mshindo Kuumba I., whose work I am familiar with. And the story is hard to describe, Turner is some big muscular Black man who has been held in some secret high-tech lab for some reason. He breaks free and starts to go on a rampage. And that’s it. Mshindo’s art here is nowhere near on the level of what he does now, it must have been some of his very early work. So all in all this doesn’t add much to the issue.
This issue also includes a trading card (it was a 90’s thing) for Ebony Warrior drawn by Erik Larsen, who was an early supporter of ANIA