Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Black Racer and Shilo Norman Oversize Special #1 Review

For Whom the Ski Poles Toll

Writer: Reginald Hudlin/Jack Kirby 
Pencils: Denys Cowan, Ryan Benjamin/Jack Kirby 
Inks: Bill Sienkiewicz, Richard Friend 
Colors: Jeromy Cox 
Letters: Janice Chiang 
Cover: Cowan, Sienkiewicz, Cox 
Cover Price: $4.99 
On Sale Date: August 30, 2017

Well, here’s an interesting one…the Black Racer, essentially the God of Death in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, and Shilo Norman, that lesser Mister Miracle that was created for reasons known only to Jack himself. Perhaps to have more Black New Gods? In any case, I can’t claim to be an expert on either character, but that didn’t stop me from reviewing The Black Racer and Shilo Norman Oversize Special #1, and you can read that review right now!

Explain It!

Maybe it’s unpopular to say, but the Black Racer clearly seems to be Jack Kirby’s attempt at creating a Silver Surfer for DC Comics. They’re both heralds of death, they both travel really fast through space, and the main thing separating them is that surfing is cool while skiing is just white families experiencing gravity. Perhaps, then, the most interesting thing about the Black Racer is that he’s black, anachronistic in skiing and in comic books, and particularly in the role of a mysterious New God. Perhaps the lesson here is that death is not likely to approach as a skeleton in an oversized cloak, but something less expected: a silent black dude with ski poles.
Shilo Norman is a lesser-referenced character in Kirby’s Fourth World. After all, there already is a Mister Miracle, one more closely tied to New Genesis and Apokolips, and who comes with a very bad-ass wife and former member of Darkseid’s Furies, Big Barda. But again, the main difference between Scott Free and Shilo Norman is obvious as soon as the full facemask is removed: one is white, the other black. You don’t see a lot of black magicians or escape artists, and once that thought congeals it would be disingenuous not to wonder exactly why. Two characters, neither what might be expected by a mainstream Jack Kirby audience (if such a thing could be said to exist), in one very interesting story.
And it is really interesting, dealing not primarily in the blackness of both characters, but in the nature of escape, casting the Black Racer as someone that can exert a modicum of free will. There is some helpful origin information provided, and I’d say that as long as you know the broad strokes of Jack Kirby’s DC Comics work, you probably could follow along here pretty easily. I was really impressed by the yarn, so much so that I won’t spoil it. For once this month, we might have a tribute to Jack Kirby that’s worth the cover price.
That is if you like a bunch of back-ups from the Forever People, some Fourth World prequel stuff titled The Young Gods of Supertown. I think it’s all absolutely terrific and it’s a nice exhibition of Jack Kirby’s work while at DC Comics. There’s even a story featuring the Black Racer, tying into the actual comic book for once! If that doesn’t sound useful, then see if you can get your local comics purveyor to sell it to you for four bucks, because that Black Racer/Shilo Norman story is pretty great.

Bits and Pieces:

An unexpected but very welcome great story by Reginald Hudlin about two characters that I don't think would land on many people's list of Kirby favorites. If it were selling for a buck less, I'd probably give this a 9. You should consider checking this one out, even if you're only reasonably familiar with Jack Kirby's Fourth World.


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