Review - The New Slaves #1 (@NigelCarrington)

"When I was a child, my parents told me that "hate" is like a cancer."

The world (the US in particular) is fond of passing legislation that addresses problems while not really doing much to enforce said legislation. Because of that, systemic problems championed as being handled by the legislation fester, offering great fodder for subversion as in The New Slaves #1 from Starr Skill Comics. The issue is written by Nigel Carrington and Joe Janowicz, illustrated by Carrington, colored by Ebhotha Omotuyi and lettered by Kerry Jon Baptiste.

While investigating a series of strange “appearances and disappearances” of people in his community of Rochester, NY, Derrick Minor--a Jamaican born police officer--finds his family's first night at their new home interrupted by an intruder who knocks Derrick unconscious. The next day, Derrick regains consciousness in an alternate world; a world where all the plantation slave owners are black and all the slaves are white. The family becomes trapped and separated in this new world. As the police officer searches for his missing family Minor tries to find a way back home, yet no one believes who he is or where he comes from.

The underlying premise of the issue is actually very strong and extremely culturally relevant at the moment. Carrington and Janowicz have taken the centuries old narrative about slavery and flipped it in a way to draw attention to turn the tables on the current interpretation of it that many people have. That being said, there are some points in the plot that feel somewhat disjointed and ask the reader to do a lot of mental gymnastics to follow from one point to the other. Derrick Minor is introduced as a sufficiently strong leading character (and the narrative is funneled through him), yet it's confusing as to how he actually ends up where he does. The writing duo also narrates pretty much the entire issue for the reader, telling them what's happening as opposed to showing them which is somewhat detrimental to character (and plot) development.

Carrington also handles the artwork in the issue, relying on an approach that does interesting things with perspective. There are quite a few panels where the characters are rendered via angles that provides the reader with different viewpoints of the action. Derrick Minor is illustrated with an emphasis on a more muscular physique that's typically expected of a leading character. Carrington also draws all the faces similarly despite the character being focused on which brings a sense of uniformity to the characters; this is good from a thematic standpoint, but from an artistic standpoint none of the characters really stand out from one another as they should. Omotuyi's colors are simple enough, effective in creating a visual difference in the new world so the reader has a better sense of what's happening.

The New Slaves #1 is a very poignant concept that many people would do well to consider. Derrick Minor is thrust into a new world that's like nothing he's ever known before and how he reacts to it is fascinating. The script by Carrington and Janowicz leans into the premise with good intentions, although the execution feels a bit clumsy at times. Carrington's artwork presents the action in a way that's pretty easy to follow. The New Slaves #1 tackles a big problem in present-day society by rethinking the past.

The New Slaves #1 is available now.